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Unicorn Caterpillar Moth (Schizura unicornis)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Unicorn Caterpillar Moth.




The single horn growing on the caterpillar of this moth is followed by a boxy rear end.



 Updated: 8/20/2020; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org




The brown and gray adult moth does not have a unicorn’s horn, but its larva grows a long, pointy ‘horn’ from the top of its body. The plump caterpillar has a large, brown head and a brown body. The area by the head may be green depending on how mature it is. The horn extends almost directly upward. Smaller bumps grow by the rear end where a white ‘V’-shaped mark may be present. These bumps exaggerate into a sharp angle when the caterpillar bends its body. The effect leaves the whole larva looking somewhat like a curled, dried leaf. Corrosive formic acid can squirt out of the hump if the caterpillar is under threat. This caterpillar feeds on a variety of deciduous trees like aspen, birch, oak, maple, hickory, and willow.

The adult moth lacks unicorn features, but it has a myriad of subtle hues overlaying its generally earthy tones. If one looks hard enough, light green and purple can be seen, and the bottom of the forewings may have a creamy white area bordered by thin, scalloped lines. The moth can be found in almost all parts of the continent save the coldest areas. It is most active during the warmest months of the summer.


General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Hairy insect icon


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Notodontidae [ View More ]
          Genus: Schizura [ View More ]
            Species: unicornis
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Descriptors
Scientific Name: Schizura unicornis
Other Name(s): Variegated Prominent Moth; Unicorn Prominent Moth
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 18mm to 25mm (0.70in to 0.98in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; gray
Descriptors: pale green; violet; purple; hairy thorax; white bottom; multicolored; flying
Relative Size Comparison
Lo: 18mm | Hi: 25mm
Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
Canadian National Flag Graphic
Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Mexican National Flag Graphic
Mexico
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns.
Territorial Map
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
State of Alabama graphic
State of Arizona graphic
State of Arkansas graphic
State of California graphic
State of Colorado graphic
State of Delware graphic
State of Florida graphic
State of Georgia graphic
State of Idaho graphic
State of Illinois graphic
State of Indiana graphic
State of Iowa graphic
State of Kansas graphic
State of Kentucky graphic
State of Louisiana graphic
State of Maine graphic
State of Maryland graphic
State of Michigan graphic
State of Minnesota graphic
State of Mississippi graphic
State of Missouri graphic
State of Montana graphic
State of Nebraska graphic
State of Nevada graphic
State of New England graphic
State of New Jersey graphic
State of New Mexico graphic
State of New York graphic
State of North Carolina graphic
State of North Dakota graphic
State of Ohio graphic
State of Oklahoma graphic
State of Oregon graphic
State of Pennsylvania graphic
State of South Carolina graphic
State of South Dakota graphic
State of Tennessee graphic
State of Texas graphic
State of Utah graphic
State of Virginia graphic
State of Washington graphic
State of West Virginia graphic
State of Wisconsin graphic
State of Wyoming graphic
Canadian territory of Alberta graphic
Canadian territory of British Columbia graphic
Canadian territory of Manitoba graphic
Canadian territory of New Brunswick graphic
Canadian territory of Newfoundland and Labrador graphic
Canadian territory of Ontario graphic
Canadian territory of Quebec graphic
Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic


Butterfly and Moth Anatomy
Graphic showing basic anatomy of a common North American butterfly and moth insect
1
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used for sensing.
2
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
3
Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
4
Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
5
Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
6
Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.