Ailanthus Webworm

Well folks, the Mondrian Bug may have a name. I saw it first on Garden337 .

This is Patterna’s image as shown on her site.

Then out in my garden on the same day was the Mondrian Bug. Pretty little guy, so I snapped a photo. He happily posed with a bumblebee and a lady bug. My kinda artsy image is below. Looks like a studio shot with poor lighting, but was taken in my garden in the early afternoon.

I wrote a comment to Garden 337 to let her know that I too had seen a Mondrian Bug in my yard and was checking with Cornell Cooperative Extension, here in New York, to get the real ID of this critter. Sadly she did not reply to my comment, but I still was interested, as was another reader who also left a comment, Meredith, from The Enchanted Earth.

The extension leader and horticulturist, John, had sent my photo, below, of the Piet Mondrian Bug to Cornell University, and an entomologist named Mike wrote back a quick reply .

Here is a website that Mike provided with the bug shown, who apparently is not a bug at all.  Who would have guessed this is a webworm moth? He gets his name from his food, the ailanthus, or invasive Tree of Heaven which looks a lot like the sumac plant so common to our area, here in Western New York.

Ailanthus Webworm Moth, My Photo Sent to Cornell

Here are images of the Ailanthus altissima tree that I researched and found on Google. The image showing the tree form really has the appearance of another genus all together, the Rhus typhina or stag’s horn sumac.

All you need to know and more on the ailanthus webworm moth,  is on this website. The site takes a little time to load because it is a reference library.

I found many photos online of the ailanthus webworm moth after I Googled the plant. But I also noticed many of the images had been taken with the subject on Phlox paniculata. Guess they have another favorite host plant as well. Above is a clear close-up that I found. The markings look like flowers to me, but I am sure they are a design to ward off predators,  and not be another bird or bugs next meal.

The image to the left is found and credited here.

I also found many species names for the moth, Yponomeutoidea, Ermine moth.

I have no way of knowing if this information that I found is correct, but the different names have a reference to whether it is a Costa Rica insect or one found in North America. Seems to me if it is actually all the same insect, I should have found only one name. Any entomologists out there?

  • atteva pustulella
  • attevinae punctella
  • atteva aurea

I was in Costa Rica with the University in 1995. I now remember seeing this moth and many others, all colorful and unique. The lepidoptera found in that country is astonishing.  And the hummingbirds, and the plants, and the animals and on and on and on…


About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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8 Responses to Ailanthus Webworm

  1. Meredith says:

    How cool! I’m so glad you passed along all this great information. The first time I saw this moth (which I also falsely assumed was a bug) was at a friend’s house in SC, and isn’t it interesting that one of the few invasives they have allowed to remain on their property is a huge Tree of Heaven? 😉 Now I will pass along that information to her and her husband, as they didn’t recognize the moth, either.

    Also, I managed to get a few decent shots of one, myself, yesterday at the Botanical Garden, and when/if I think of a post to go with it, I will assuredly link up to you and give you a big thank you for the info, Donna. Bookmarking now! 🙂

    • Apparently this moth is getting around. I think I was most surprised at how far a deep southern insect traveled to find new breeding grounds. They do not overwinter here, but do reproduce and get the new generation started. I found that they are as far north as Southern Canada, which is why I found one in my yard. I am living along the Canadian border, right next to the Niagara River. Your post was good by the way. I was so excited to let you know about the moth and forgot to mention the post. See you after your August break.

  2. skeeter says:

    How lucky to get a shot of 3 insects at the same time! That hardly looks like a moth until you see the wings open. Beautiful colors on that flutterbug! Your stain glass below is awesome and impressive. The pictures of the young Buck and Kitty rate high on my Awwwwwww factor! They are adorable. I snapped a pic of a deer by a cat in my parents yard a while back. I was captivated as to how they got along so well. Yes, if only we humans could take lessons from the animals….

  3. Mary Ellen says:

    Hi Donna-found that little bug on my car the other day-oops I mean moth!!!! My
    husband thought it was a bug-I promptly told him it was a moth-he looked at me as if to say “How do you Know” ????. Mentioned you and your great blog.!!!!

  4. garden337 says:

    Thank you so much for leaving a comment on my blog, and for investigating this moth. I rather think “Mondrian Bug” is a better name than Ailanthus Webworm Moth, but…


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