The Harnessed Tiger Moth, Apantesis phalerata, is a common night flying moth in Tippecanoe County, Indiana. The name “Harnessed” comes from a horse’s harness that the “collar” on the thorax of this moth presumably resembles. This beautiful tiger moth has cream and black forewings and reddish hind wings. The closely related species, Apantesis nais, is similar in appearance, but lacks the black spots on the collar of the thorax.The Harnessed Tiger Moth is considered to have cryptic coloration. The lines on black break up the shape of the moth to help conceal it from birds and other daylight predators. Depending on the plant it has eaten, these moths can be quite distasteful to predators and advertise the fact with their bright underwing colors.
Tiger moths are known for producing a clicking sound that can deter bats. Many of the tiger moths sequester toxins from their host plants and store them in their tissues. This makes the moths unpalatable if not inedible. Bats quickly learn to associate the clicking sounds with the bad taste in their mouth and leave the moths alone.
The Harnessed Tiger Moth is attracted to lights. In Tippecanoe County, Indiana, it flies from June to September. Look for them next summer. Leave the porch light on.