Candle moth is a general term for moths belonging to the family Noctuidae. Worldwide in distribution, this family is the largest in the Order Lepidoptera and there are about 3,000 species found in North America. They have a wide variation in appearance and behavior. Most moths are gray to brown in color and have lines or spots on their wings, however, some species are brightly colored. They can range from small to large in size, but most species are medium-sized with wingspans 3/4” to 2 1/2”. When at rest, adults of most species hold their wings above their bodies like a roof.
Candle moths received their moniker by being strongly attracted to light and they will frequently be seen near lights on the exterior of a structure. They are typically nocturnal, though some species are diurnal. Most larvae (caterpillars) feed on plant foliage, dead leaves, grasses, lichens, and fungi. Larvae occupy many niches in the environment with some species being leaf miners, others stem- or leaf-borers, and still others will feed at night on plant shoots. Several species are of economic importance to man as they can be severe pests of forests and agriculture.
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