Moths of Fermilab (northeastern Illinois)
A list of the moths observed on the 6800 acre Fermilab site, 40 miles west of Chicago, Illinois
   This is a list of the larger and/or more conspicuous moths found at Fermilab, a small sample of the moths of northeastern Illinois.  There are approximately eight times as many species of moths as butterflies in North America.  If we found them at Fermilab in proportion to the over 50 species of butterflies identified, we would list over 400 species of moths.  This list includes over 100 species as of the end of 2009.  Although just a fraction of the moths of Fermilab, this list now includes most of the commonly found larger and more conspicuous moths found here.  I look forward to adding more photos to this catalogue over the next few years.

    Click on the family names below for a page of thumbnail photos of those species found at Fermilab.  The thumbnail photo is in turn linked to more information about the species.  In several cases, the moth is only identified to the family or genus level.  The Hodges checklist number is included with the species information for reference and sequencing the list within the family.

Moth families 
Sphinx moths (Sphingidae) Carolina Sphinx Medium sized to large, with the larger sphinx moths resembling hummingbirds when flying and hovering at flowers.  Some fly by day and resemble bumblebees.  Caterpillars are generally large, hairless, green or tan, with a "horn" on their rear end, such as the common tomato hornworm.  Day-fliers include the bumblebee mimic, Hummingbird Clearwing. 

Wild silk moths and royal moths  (Saturniidae) Polyphemus Moth Medium sized to large, including some of our largest and most spectacular moths.  They do not feed as adults, living only a few days or a week.  Silk moths and royal moths are attracted to lights and may sometimes be found on our buildings in early summer. 

Tiger moths (Arctiidae) Colona Haploa Moth Medium sized, often colorful moths.  Caterpillars are often very furry, such as the banded wooly bear which may often be seen in the autumn.  Day-fliers include haploa moths such as shown on the left and ctenucha moths. 

Owlet moths (Noctuidae) Underwing Moth This is a large group of moths, including many ordinary looking small brown and gray moths, but also including some brightly colored day flying moths.  Day-fliers include the Eight-spotted Forester Moth. 

Prominents (Notodontidae White-dotted Prominent Stout-bodied medium sized moths. 

Tussock Moths (Lymantriidae)
Tussock Moth thumb
Small to medium sized brown and gray moths.  The caterpillars are generally furry with tufts of hair and may be very numerous.  The Gypsy Moth, a destructive non-native species from Europe, is in this family. 

Lappet moths (Lasiocampidae) Large Tolype Medium sized, furry bodied moths.

Geometer moths (Geometridae) Cross-lined Wave Named for the"measuring worm" or "inchworm" caterpillars, this is a large family of moths, some of which are brightly colored, fly by day, and resemble butterflies.  Day-fliers include the very common, small, orange Chickweed Moth and some of the white geometer moths, which resemble Cabbage White butterflies in flight. 

Pyralid moths (Pyralidae) Pyralid Small moths

Leaf roller or bell moths (Tortricidae) Leafroller Moth Small moths

Ermine moths (Yponomeutidae) Ailanthus Webworm Moth Very small moths with narrow wings wrapped around their bodies when at rest, but some are very colorful.  Day-fliers include the Ailanthus webworm moth. 

Carpenter and Leopard Moths
Carpenterworm Moth
Mostly rather large, heavy-bodied moths 

Bagworm Moths
Bagworm Moth cocoon

Bagworm moths are common pests of ornamental trees.  The adult moths look like large flies and are seldom seen.  But the caterpillar lives in a "bag" of sticks and leaves of the host plant, a bag which also serves as the cocoon.  These bags are very often seen on trees and bushes at Fermilab. 

Plume Moths
Plume Moth
Plume moths are small, inconspicuous moths which with their T-shaped position resemble crane flies at rest.  In some cases, the wings consist of what look almost like separate, feathery sections. 

Footnotes and more information:

Some links to other Fermilab web sites: Some links to other lepidoptera web sites: For more information contact Tom Peterson (, 630 840 4458.
Last update:  Dec 31, 2009