The Cream-Striped Owl Moth

Who goes there?

An uncommon guest has been visiting our homes in the East Rand of late. I’m alluding to the Cream-Striped Owl Moth (Cyligramma latona). They belong to the family Noctuidae. The owl-eyed markings on the moth’s wings are certainly its most striking feature. The purpose of such markings is to convince potential predators that it is dealing with something dangerous. Such instances of mimicry or common in the insect world.

Cream-Striped Owl Moth

Cream-Striped Owl Moth (Credit Bernard Du Pont)

Why the population explosion?

Cream-Striped Owl Moths are fairly common across the country at low densities. Their larvae feed on a variety of Acacia (now Vachellia) species. During droughts, the numbers of butterflies and moths fall to very low levels. However, wasps and flies which are their main predators are affected to a far greater extent. Predators are thus overwhelmed if there is a sudden burst of greenery at the end of a drought. A female Cyligramma latona lays hundreds of eggs. Only one moth of each sex needs to survive to preserve the species. The predators usually kill 98% or more of the offspring, but if the predators’ numbers are low, a high percentage of caterpillar survive. The adults then mate and lay even more eggs that survive. This creates an exponential increase in numbers which results in the population explosion we are currently experiencing.

Acacia karoo

Acacia Karoo (CreditAA Dreyer)

Consequently, when numbers reach a critical point, the adults start dispersing and we see thousands of them over a large area. If a drought has been prolonged and severe even large moths can explode in numbers. Nevertheless, mother nature will ensure that moth populations reach an equilibrium. So enjoy their visit while it lasts! We highly recommend I Spot in case you meet any other curious critters that need identificationSave

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