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Ornate Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Ornate Bella Moth

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Image Credit: Rochelle Schwab, taken in FL
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Image Credit: Rochelle Schwab, taken in FL
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Colorful Ornate Bellas love warm weather and can be found in all three continental Americas.

Updated: 01/04/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Two color forms are common for this variable moth. One is bright orange with white bands crossing the wings, each filled with a row of black dots. The bottom border has black semi-circles above a short white fringe. The hindwings are a fresh, rosy pink with an irregular black border. Another form that is found in southern Florida, southern Texas, and Mexico is mostly white. Black dots cover the head and thorax. Dark orange coloring borders the outer sides of the wings and the bottom as well. Black dots on white are still present on the wings, but are mostly relegated to the lower part.

The caterpillar for this moth is equally colorful. The orange body has black rings on each segment. Each black ring has a row of black bumps that sprout black or white whiskers. A denser group of these hairs grow by the orange-red head. Carrying the orange and black coloring through the life cycle, its chrysalis is black with orange spots marked with black centers. Legumes, especially rattelebox, are favored by the caterpillar, but tree leaves from elm and cherry are possible host plants for the caterpillar as well smaller plants like lupine and sweetgale. Larvae eat the toxic seeds of rattlebox and become poisonous to other insects because of it. The adult and even eggs laid by females retain some of this beneficial, chemical protection. Certain wasps are still able to parasitize the moth eggs, so the species is not completely impervious to predation.

Look for this moth during the day in fields that grow legumes like rattlebox. This species rarely flies into the northern states and provinces in its range, preferring heat and humidity. In fact, the Ornate Bella Moth counts Central America and South America as part of its range and can be found as far south as parts of Argentina. In consistently warm areas, they fly year round.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Erebidae
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          Genus: Utetheisa
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            Species: ornatrix

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Utetheisa ornatrix
Other Name(s): Bella Moth; Ornate Moth; Rattlebox Moth
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 16mm to 24mm (0.62" to 0.94")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: orange; white; black; pink
Descriptors: row of black dots; black dots with white rings; orange wings; pink under wing; colorful; pretty; flying

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 16mm (0.6in) and 24mm (0.9in)
Lo: 16mm
Md: 20mm
Hi: 24mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and 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 Ornate Bella 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 Ornate Bella Moth. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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