When you think of moths, you probably imagine, in your mind, a tannish-brown moth that flutters at your front porch light as you’re trying to quickly enter the house. What if I told you there is a moth that is white as snow and when they cluster together it looks like a solid white blanket.

Satin moths aren’t harmful to humans but in their caterpillar stage, they have spiky hairs on their body that can cause a mild rash if they are handled. Now, I said they weren’t harmful to humans. They are, however, harmful to your trees. The caterpillars have a huge appetite for cottonwood, aspen, willow, and poplar tree leaves. If left untreated in the spring, when the caterpillar emerges from overwintering, the tree leaves will be left with only the petiole and vein. A petiole is the stalk of the leaf that branches out from the stem and holds the leaf.

Satin moths have a little longer lifespan compared to other moths. These moths mate in mid-summer where the fertilized female will then lay oval capsule eggs on host trees and plants. The eggs hatch within 30 days and the caterpillar will begin feasting on the tree or plant leaves. As temperatures drop in the fall, the caterpillar makes its way to the trunk of the tree or base of the plant and encases itself in a silk cocoon to overwinter.

As spring approaches, the caterpillar emerges with a bigger appetite and continues feeding on the leaves. (This stage of life is when they do the most damage). Fall and early spring is the best time to treat trees for these insects. Treating them while they are still in their cocoon will not harm them.

As the caterpillar (larvae) eat in the spring they continue to grow and mature. Late spring they again cocoon themselves in silk for 10-14 days to pupate into a moth. At this time, they will flutter out a beautiful solid white moth.

As an adult moth, they then repeat the mating ritual for a new generation. The average adult moth lives 2-4 weeks but satin moths live approximately 2 months.

Satin moths do not eat during their adult life but they do help the environment. They are nocturnal pollinators. So, when they aren’t flying around your porch light annoying you, they are helping night blooming plants and flowers. They also serve as a food source to birds, mammals, and insects. Changing outdoor white light bulbs to yellow will reduce flying insects. Most flying insects are not attracted to yellow, orange, or pink colors.

The reason why satin moths prefer willow, aspen, cottonwood, and poplar trees as hosts to their offspring, is because of the abundance of leaves they produce. Poplar trees are easy to care for and grow quickly. They can reach over 150 feet high, so just imagine how many leaves it can have. It’s a leaf buffet for satin moth caterpillars.

Satin moths are a solid white moth with a fuzzy head and antenna. Their legs have black markings on them almost like a checkerboard. The larvae (caterpillar) has a black 1.5” long body with white or yellow spots along its spine. On both sides of the spots it also has red bumps with yellow spiky hairs protruding out of them.

If you spot satin moths inside your home it’s recommended to sweep and vacuum regularly and call Safe Earth Pest Control to help eliminate an indoor infestation. Safe Earth Pest Control can treat your trees, lawn, and home for whatever’s bugging you. 214-321-2847