Harnessed Tiger Moth

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.

Male Harnessed Tiger Moth resting under a porch light near Lafayette, IN.

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.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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2 Responses to Harnessed Tiger Moth

  1. Tammy Wolf says:

    I was researching a moth from my yard in Washington state, east side, and came across your site. The moth appears to be a harnessed tiger moth without the two spots on it’s collar. All other markings match. However, your blog photo of the little mud pit caught my interest. I collected one off of a blackberry bush in Oregon. The critter broke it open on my way home. Are these some type of wasp? What are they called? Thank you and have a great week.

    • jjneal says:

      The mud pit would be a mud dauber nest. It is a wasp that builds with mud
      Your Tiger Moth is possibly another similar species. There are many look-alike species

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