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Holly Borer Moth (Synanthedon kathyae)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Holly Borer Moth

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Image Credit: Kevin from Tyron, NC
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Image Credit: Steve K. from California, MD
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The Holly Borer Moth is a convincing mimic of a wasp, but the hairy moth is more dangerous to plants than to people.

Updated: 07/02/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The transparent wings of the Holly Borer Moth, coupled with the bold black and yellow body patterns, make it look like a stinging wasp. This mimicry helps them avoid predators like birds and small animals. It also leads to mistaken identity and possibly hostile treatment from wary people. They have hairy bodies and legs. Antennae are long and slightly curved, and the wings are narrow and clear, with dark veins; all of this can add to an observer's confusion. It is a moth, however, and poses no stinging or biting threat to people. Flower nectar is what it seeks.

The connection to holly plants comes from the caterpillar. The larvae of this species bore into holly trees, sometimes damaging the plant. Once the larvae pupate and become adults, they can be found on a variety of flowers in parks, gardens and meadows during the summer months.©InsectIdentification.org

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


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Sesiidae
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          Genus: Synanthedon
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            Species: kathyae
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Synanthedon kathyae
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 20mm to 24mm (0.78" to 0.94")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; yellow
Descriptors: flying; wasp; hornet

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 20mm (0.8in) and 24mm (0.9in)
Lo: 20mm
Md: 22mm
Hi: 24mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Holly Borer Moth may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Holly Borer Moth. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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