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Light Marathyssa Moth (Marathyssa basalis)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Light Marathyssa Moth

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Image Credit: Alex -icycatelf- Bowen
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A highly curled abdomen is the normal resting state for this small, somewhat harried-looking moth.

Updated: 07/07/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The Light Marathyssa is pale and may look mostly ivory in color, but it also has brown overtones and reddish patches on its wings that are broken up by white veins. The position of its abdomen it unusual for most moths as it bends over the back, almost aligned with the head. Small tufts of hairs stick up from the 'back' of the abdomen, adding even dimension. The result is a curious, headstand-like profile. Wings remain low and folded in pleats in this pose, giving them a narrow appearance. Males have comb-like teeth on both sides of their antennae, but females lack them.

This is a nocturnal moth, and like its darker relative, it will come to lights at night. It is often seen in or near woodlands and forests. The caterpillar is white with pale green and yellow tones. It is covered in rows of black dots from head to rear end that may start to connect along the 'spine'. This handy caterpillar feeds on poison ivy, a plant notorious for giving persistent red, terribly itchy, rashes and blisters to people who come into contact with it. If the caterpillar is seen feeding on foliage, it would be prudent to identify the plant immediately to avoid accidentally brushing up against poison ivy.

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


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Euteliidae
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          Genus: Marathyssa
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            Species: basalis
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Marathyssa basalis
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 15mm to 18mm (0.59" to 0.70")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; tan; ivory; white; red; gray
Descriptors: curled; curved; rolled; handstand; headstand; narrow; skinny; small; flying

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 15mm (0.6in) and 18mm (0.7in)
Lo: 15mm
Md: 16.5mm
Hi: 18mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Light Marathyssa 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 Light Marathyssa Moth. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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