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Polka Dot Wasp Moth (Syntomeida epilais)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Polka Dot Wasp Moth

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Image Credit: Ron C. from FL
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Image Credit: Carol E. of Georgia, USA
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The colorful, clownish Polka Dot Wasp Moth is a clever mimic that only hurts the oleander bush.

Updated: 01/27/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Polka Dot Wasp Moths are common to tropical climates and have a North American home in the humid southeastern United States, appearing year-round in the warmest areas like Florida. Though they have the appearance - and in some ways, the behavior - of a wasp, the Polka Dot Wasp Moth is just a moth. It does not sting, nor bite. It utilizes mimicry to dissuade potential predators that are familiar with a real wasp's sting. The Polka Dot Wasp Moth is a day-flier. Its black wings and body have a blue translucence. The tip of the abdomen looks like it was dipped in red. Bright, white dots mark the wings. Two large white dots sit at the moth's 'waist' and a line of them run along both sides of the abdomen. Tips of the antennae and back legs are white.

The Oleander Caterpillar is the common name for the Polka Dot Wasp Moth when it is in its larval stage. These larvae are disliked for their extensive defoliation of the poisonous oleander plant, which is common in Florida. Oleander Caterpillars are a bright orange with black hairs, and they congregate in large numbers on oleander leaves. Removing them from the garden is can be conflicting. Doing so spares the aesthetics of the oleander, but then erases an opportunity to see its charismatic adult form later in the season.©InsectIdentification.org

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


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Sesiidae
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          Genus: Syntomeida
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            Species: epilais
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Syntomeida epilais
Other Name(s): Oleander Moth
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 20mm to 43mm (0.78" to 1.69")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: red; white; blue; black
Descriptors: flying; multicolored; dots; spots; red bottom; tail; polka

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 20mm (0.8in) and 43mm (1.7in)
Lo: 20mm
Md: 31.5mm
Hi: 43mm
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 Polka Dot Wasp 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 Polka Dot Wasp Moth. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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