When people think of moths, they typically don’t think much. Though butterflies owe a lot to having evolved from moths, many prefer them because of their more conventional outward beauty. In fact, those who like moths have trouble even finding them sometimes due to their nature as nocturnal animals, being seen mostly in the nighttime.
As a result, most people don’t know much about moths, bringing up the question: what do moths eat?
What Do Moths Eat?
To understand the general diet of moths, it is important to understand that a moth does not eat the same types of food at every point in its life. For example, what a moth larva eats compared to an adult animal is much different. Moth larvae do not have as much mobility as adults, taking on the form of caterpillars. Because of this, their parents typically raise them on top of a plant so they can nibble away at its leaves.
The most common leaves for moth larvae to eat depends on the specific species. For example, Common Oak Moths feed on oak trees while Cherry Dagger Moths prefer to raise their larvae on cherry trees. Moth larvae that are raised on either of these plants will typically eat these plants for their entire infancy, eventually moving onto the other leaves once they eat the entire leaf they were born on.
However, this isn’t all that moth larvae eat. For example, in their infancy moth larvae are typically focused on chewing anything, regardless of the material. To satiate their urge for chewing, they will typically chew anything that is nearby, causing them to dig through hair, fur, leaves, dirt, and any other objects that are nearby.
In a similar way, the eating habits of adult moths also vary depending on the species. However, there is a general diet that can be deduced based on the most common attributes of each moth’s diet. For instance, adult moths are known for eating nectar, the juices of fruit, sap, and certain types of manure liquids. Uniquely enough, adult moths don’t chew, as the part of their body that was previously used for chewing is now utilized to process liquids.
It’s worth noting, though, that some moths don’t even have a diet! This is because they have gotten all of the energy they need while in their larva state, giving them enough energy and sustenance to survive throughout their adult life.
What Do Lunar Moths Eat?
Adult lunar moths are one of the aforementioned types of moths that don’t eat at all. However, the larvae do eat and are known for mostly snacking on the leaves of sweet gum trees. Other types of leaves they are interested in include the leaves of persimmon, hickory, and walnut trees.
When larvae hatch from their cocoons, they don’t even have mouths. This is because their sole purpose in life is to mate and lay eggs, making it not a necessity for them to know how to eat or have other sustenance. They’re powered through adulthood by the food they ate when in infancy, making the diet of a moth larva incredibly essential to its development.
What Do Gypsy Moths Eat?
Gypsy Moths are known for eating tender leaves from a variety of different trees. For example, the different amounts of trees that a gypsy moth larva will eat in its lifetime include crabapple, aspen, willow, birch, pine, spruce, maple, and oak trees. As opposed to other types of moths, though, Gypsy Moth larvae are known for feasting on tender, young leaves. As they grow older, they are known to eat harder, more firm leaves.
The diets of Gypsy Moths can be cumbersome for tree growth as they typically hinder the process of proper cultivation. This is why their diet has to occur in uncontrolled spaces, as they can foil the growing process of many controlled plants and growing situations. As a result, people are known to spray the trees so the moths do not lay their eggs there. However, Gypsy Moths are able to settle on such a wide variety of trees that this does not pose a problem for their survival.
What Do Pantry Moths Eat?
Pantry Moths are a unique type of moth that are known for feasting on stored food. This is where they get their name, as they are known for infiltrating one’s pantry to acquire sustenance. They do this in order to lay their eggs, relying on cold, dark places to keep themselves and their larvae safe. As a result, they typically infest dry foods such as pasta, flour, oatmeal, dried fruits, chocolate, and more. They will not only eat the containers that you keep your food in, but also eat the food itself, eventually laying their eggs inside of the food.
Do Moths Really Eat Clothes?
Sort of! Though you might have a fear of moths in general due to their infamous nature of chewing through fabrics and clothing, your frustration is slightly misdirected. In fact, many of the moths that actually eat your clothing are not moths you’ll see!
What do we mean by this? Well, as previously mentioned, it’s impossible for adult moths to chew through things. Because of this, it is the larvae that are digging through your fabrics and clothing. Moth larvae will eat anything that is within a nearby radius, making your clothing a great snack for those who are born nearby.
So, moths really do eat your clothes, but not the types of moths you would expect. If you make sure that your drawers are protected, though, you have nothing to worry about!
How Do Moth Larvae Get to Nearby Clothes?
Though it might seem unlikely for moths to get anywhere near your clothing drawer, it’s more likely than you think. This is often achieved by a female moth laying her eggs onto a piece of clothing. From there, the eggs are inside the clothing and stay with it until the larvae hatch, allowing them to now roam freely among your fabrics.
In a way, clothes are a perfect part of the diet of moth larvae, providing them with a great deal of hair, lint, and other fabrics that are easy to chew on and digest.
Clothing drawers are also ideal for moths to lay eggs in because of how dark and cold they typically are. Similar to pantry moths, moths that infiltrate clothing drawers do so in order to provide their larvae with sustenance and safety, something that can’t be as easily found in other parts of an average home.
It’s difficult to make your home 100% moth-proof, but it’s worth mentioning that it is possible to put moth balls and other types of moth repellant inside of your clothing drawers so you can protect your fabrics at night.
Do Adult Moths Eat Any Liquid?
Not necessarily. Though adult moths are most drawn to liquids that contain sugar or sweet elements, they typically only consume liquids that can be dissolved in water. This is because their digestion systems are not as prepared to deal with other types of liquid, as they are often too thick to process efficiently.
Why Do Moths Only Eat Liquids?
Moths typically only feast on liquids in order to maintain the balance of water in their body. The sugar found in the sweet types of liquid that moths typically pursue also helps them to keep their energy levels consistent, giving them enough fuel to fly and do all of the mating that they focus on in their adult lives. That being said, a majority of adult moths don’t actually eat anything!
However, it should be noted that there is one species of moth that eats wool, making it the only type of moth that actually eats something other than liquid during its adulthood.
Do Moths Sleep?
Moths do sleep, they just don’t sleep at the same times as most humans. For example, as nocturnal animals, moths are known for being active during the nighttime and then sleeping during the day. This is the reason as to why you don’t see moths out and about in the wild, as they are typically operating in the dark.
What Do Moths Do While Active?
When moths are active in the nighttime, they typically spend their time pollinating flowers. This is very similar to butterflies, their evolutionary counterparts, as they are vital to the cultivation and survival of various species of flowers. From these flowers, they’re able to also collect nectar, giving the adult moths that actually have a diet something to eat.
Where Do Moths Sleep?
During the day, moths typically find a place to hide and sleep. This is where their nature of finding cold, dark places to rest takes over, as many of them hide in drawers, under rocks, and in caves.
Moths are also well-known for their unique ability to camouflage themselves into a given environment, making them able to blend in with trees, grass, and even dirt.
How Long do Moths Live?
Just like with diets, the amount of time a moth lives depends on the species. However, for most moths it is safe to say that they live most of their lives as larvae, typically only being alive long enough as adults to mate and begin the process again. It’s very common for moth larvae to be alive about 2-6 weeks before forming a cocoon, staying in that position for about 3 weeks. After this, they hatch as adult moths, but can sometimes only last for 1-2 weeks before passing away.
Some moths even have even more of an uneven lifespan. For instance, the Arctic Wolly Bear Caterpillar can stay in its larva mode for up to 14 years, spending the entire time feeding and sustaining. Once they eventually become moths, they only have a few days to live. This is because their sole purpose becomes mating so eggs can be born, increasing the likelihood of their species to live on.
Where do Moths Live?
There are over 20,000 different species of moths that also occupy different types of habitats. However, it can be said that a great majority of moths will sustain in places such as forests, mountain zones, salt marshes, and sand dunes. This is why it’s not as common to see moths near a metropolitan area, but you’re able to spot them more frequently as soon as you enter a densely-crowded forest. This is because of their diet’s reliance on leaves, which causes them to exist more often near trees than not.
Do Moths Bite?
Though it’s often feared that moths are able to bite humans due to their tendency to nibble at our clothes, moths are not interested in feasting on the flesh of humans. However, this does not mean that you will not face any effects if you come in contact with a moth—there have been rare instances of moths giving humans rashes through the spurs located on their legs.
Are Moths Beneficial for the Environment?
Yes! Though the main purpose of moths is to mate and subsequently breed, they are also vital to keeping various species of plants alive. As mentioned previously, this is because they share the same properties as butterflies to pollinate flowers, but it’s also because they are the only animals of their kind that are awake during the night. Because not all flowers are blooming during the daytime, it’s up to the moths to keep the nighttime plants sufficiently pollinated.
Like many different types of animals, though, they can cause trouble if not regulated. This is why it’s important to recognize how Gypsy Moths can be detrimental for certain plants, as they typically feast on the tender leaves that distinguish trees that still need growth. Moths do have a purpose for existing in the wild, but it’s important that they are looked after with care to ensure that they’re providing and not hurting the environments in which they live in.
How Many Moths Are There in the USA?
As of right now, there is an astonishing amount of 11,000 different species of moth in the USA. Not only is this a shocking variety compared to the amount of butterflies currently in the country, but for every species of butterfly, there are at least 10 different species of moth in the wild.
Hello everybody! This is French, the author behind the animal article you have just stumbled upon. Writing about critters of various sizes and shapes has been a wonderful experience so far! With a Bachelor’s of Science in Wildlife: Conservation and Management from Humboldt State University, I have been passionate about using my degree to teach others about animals. In fact, education is among the most important ways that we can save future wildlife. These articles are a way to help others relate to these animals, thus raising awareness. If you have any questions about biology, wildlife, botany, or any other science, feel free to ask!