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The Estigmene acrea is an interesting species of moth found in several regions of North and South America and Africa. These moths were named salt marsh moths due to being commonly found in salty marsh habitats, as well as in other open regions. It is part of the superfamily Noctuoidea, which also includes the garden tiger moth.
These moths appear white in color with yellow-orange abdomens and black spots. The larvae are quite hairy and appear reddish-brown, yellow, and black. The salt marsh moth mating ritual involves males releasing pheromones to attract females and adult moths leave their pupa during the spring season. Salt marsh caterpillars act as pests and destroy important crops like cabbage, potato, and tobacco. Particularly, in Ontario and Quebec in Canada, they have caused extensive damage to crops. Insecticides are used by people in order to stop the destruction inflicted by these creatures.
A salt marsh moth (Estigmene acrea) is a kind of insect that is found in parts of North America, South America, and Africa. These moths are also known as the acrea moth.
Salt marsh moths belong to the class Insecta. They are a part of the Erebidae family and Arctiinae sub-family.
The exact population of these moths is not known. Nevertheless, their distribution is pretty wide-ranging and so they are not really rare.
Salt marsh moths are found in many places in North America, especially in the United States. They are also seen in Canada and Mexico. In Africa, these creatures can be seen in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, while in South America they reside in Colombia.
These moths are most commonly found in open areas like fields, woods, and grasslands. They are also typically found in marshes and hence, they have been named salt marsh moths.
An older salt marsh larva is known to display solitary behavior. However, they are also seen migrating in large groups from one field to another in search of food.
In the life cycle of salt marsh moths, one generation is usually completed within 35 to 40 days. The females die between four and five days after laying their eggs.
Males of this species secrete pheromones to attract females. Once mating is successful, the females are known to lay 400 to 1200 eggs on the leaf of their host plants. The salt marsh moth eggs appear yellow in the beginning but later change into a grayish tone. The eggs hatch after four or five days and larvae come out which go through between five and seven instar phases. These insects can spend up to 45 days as caterpillars before making their own cocoon with the silken hairs on their body. They spend the winter in the pupal stage and emerge in the spring season, following which the same life cycle repeats itself.
The conservation status of the salt marsh moth (Estigmene acrea) has not been listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The threats faced by these moths are usually from humans or predators like lady beetles and assassin bugs which prey on the caterpillars of this species. However, they do not produce any long-term effect on the population of these moths.
The salt marsh moth (Estigmene acrea) is quite a beautiful and unique-looking moth species. Adult moths have white bodies and an orange-yellow abdomen. The forewings in this species are also white and have numerous black spots. The number of black spots is variable, but there are usually five black spots along the leading edge (or costa) of the forewing. The hindwing differs in males and females of this species. While the former has yellowish-orange hindwings, the latter has white hindwings. There are black spots on the hindwings for both sexes.
Caterpillars of this species have lots of hairs on their body and appear very woolly. These hairs can be seen in varied colors like reddish-brown, grayish-white, yellow, and black. The hairs arise from orange or black tubercles.
Both the adult salt marsh moth and the salt marsh caterpillar are cute in appearance. The hairs on the body of the young caterpillars make them very woolly and adorable, while the orange-yellow abdomen and white and yellowish-orange wings give a distinct appearance to the adults.
The salt marsh moth (Estigmene acrea) is known to communicate through chemical cues. Adult males of this species have a tail-like structure called the coremata, which is present inside their abdomen tip. When the need arises, they can inflate and stick this coremata out of the tip of their abdomen. There are hairs on this coremata, responsible for secreting pheromones and the males use this scent to attract females. Further, both sexes are known to release chemicals that have a bad or acrid odor when they are disturbed. The odor of the chemical is spread around by the adult moth itself, by fluttering its wings.
The wingspan of an adult salt marsh moth is in the range of 1.7-2.6 in (4.5-6.8 cm). Caterpillars and larvae have varying body lengths and can grow up to 2.1 in (55 mm). The garden tiger moth, which also belongs to the family Erebidae, has a similar wingspan to that of adult salt marsh moths at 1.8-2.6 in (4.6-6.8 cm).
Whilst the exact speed of a salt marsh moth is not known, the saltmarsh caterpillar is thought to be quite a fast insect. This caterpillar can move around pretty quickly in search of food.
The exact weight of the adults of this species is not known. In general, moths do not weigh a lot.
Male and female moths of this species are known as male salt marsh moths and female salt marsh moths, respectively.
A baby salt marsh moth is known as a salt marsh caterpillar or larva.
Salt marsh caterpillars are herbivorous in nature and feed on different kinds of host plants. Some of the most common host plants that they feed on include pigweed (Amaranthus) and ground cherry. These insects are also known to act as pests on various important crops like cabbage, cotton, apple, alfalfa, potatoes, and many more. Saltmarsh larvae are known to eat tons of leaves and cause defoliation. In Canada, these insects have caused wide damage to plants and crops.
These creatures are not poisonous to humans and are also not known to bite.
These moths are not kept as pets very commonly, but it can be possible to keep them as pets if all their needs are met.
Another common name for the salt marsh moth is the salt marsh tiger moth.
This moth was first described by Dru Drury, who was an entomologist, in the year 1773.
These moths are capable of detoxifying the alkaloids in their host plants and converting them into sex pheromones.
Salt marsh moths can be found in a variety of habitats like open fields, woods, grasslands, and marshes in various regions of North America, South America, and Africa. The name salt marsh moth was given because they are reportedly sometimes found in coastal salt marshes. In Florida and southern Texas in North America, these moths are seen all year round. Adults are seen near lights during the night, while caterpillars and larvae can be seen on the ground while they are foraging for food.
Salt marsh caterpillar moth larvae are known to migrate from one field to another in search of food. They are quite quick and can cover long distances to feed themselves or to look for a suitable location to build their salt marsh moth cocoon and pupate.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these click beetle facts and blister beetle facts for kids.
You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable salt marsh moth coloring pages.
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