Assisting with community inquiries is one of my favorite parts about being an entomologist. It’s nice to be able to help someone, and inevitably, I end up learning something new! This week, thanks to a call from Toledo, OR – I learned about the Pandora Moth (Hemileucinae: Coloradia pandora). True, this doesn’t classify as a ‘cutworm’, but I needed a place to post about it, so here we are. These large beauties have an unusual lifecycle, can be massive defoliators of pine trees in the Western US, and are used as a food source by Indigenous Peoples. Click the “Continue reading” link below if your curiosity is as strong as mine!

  • Noticed mainly East of the Cascades, this species does range throughout the Western US.
  • Moth flights occur every other year – “caterpillars in even [numbered] years, moths in odd years”
  • When high population booms occur, every few decades, media outlets take note (2018 Deschutes Cty. and 2002, 2007 Klamath County)
  • Needle defoliation by the caterpillars can be extensive (80K+ acres!). Some experts say it usually does not permanently damage trees because they have the off year to recover. However, bark beetle damage or drought can decline overall forest health.
  • With a wingspan ranging from 3 to 4 1/2 inches, adult Pandora moths are among the largest insects found in the forests of North America!
  • Caterpillars are brownish with black and white stripes and are covered in short, bristly hairs. Use caution handling them, the hairs can sting
  • Adult moths are brown to black with a spot on each forewing, pink-rimmed hindwings, and yellow antennae.
  • Moths rest and deposit eggs on the bark of Pinus spp. trees. They are attracted to lights and eggs have also been noted on concrete walls and other vertical structures
  • Both life stages are an important part of the food web (chipmunks and birds, respectively)
  • Fascinating article about the methods used by the Paiute and other Indigenous Peoples to harvest and preserve larvae as a food staple

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One thought on “Pandora Moth

  1. I know, I caught the tail end of the Pandora moth outbreak on a recent visit to Bend, Oregon. Pandora moth most often has a two-year life cycle. Pandora moth is our largest and perhaps most charismatic forest insect pest. In its larval stage it is a defoliator of pine trees.


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