Salt-and-pepper moth’s TN habitat identified


  • A habitat of salt-and-pepper moth (Utetheisa lotrix) that is seen worldwide as an indication of a healthy environment has been identified for the first time in Tamil Nadu in the plains close to Pachamalai range of the Eastern Ghats in Thuraiyur Taluk.
  • Presence of the species, which is usually found in the tropics, has so far been recorded in India in West Bengal (Sunderbans), Maharashtra (Amravati, Nashik, and Dhule), Garhwal, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • Elsewhere in the world, the moth has habitats in Borneo, Hong Kong, New Guinea, Taiwan, Australia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, China and the Philippines.
  • The moth species is known to play an important role in the natural ecosystem as pollinator.

Brilliantly coloured

  • The habitat at a location between Thuraiyur and Pachamalai range of the Eastern Ghats. The moth, which is similar to Utetheisa pulchelloides (heliotrope moth), has been found in Tamil Nadu for the first time.
  • The moth looks white while flying, and at rest a pattern of red/orange and black spots on the white fore wings can be seen. Each hind wing is white with two black spots and an irregular black margin. The moth is active during the day and, hence, the unusual bright colour. It is believed that they do not cause damage to crops.
  • Salt and pepper moth’s larvae feed on Crotalaria species plant (tattle pod plant, called ‘Sangunithi’ in Tamil). The moth’s head and thorax is pale yellow. Antennae are ciliated. The fore wing is white, long and narrow.
  • Five interrupted scarlet bands with series of black spots between them are present on fore wing sequence of marginal black spots present on fore wing.
  • The species frequents open and agricultural land habitats in low lands, and are the most brilliantly coloured moths in the world, even brighter than butterflies.


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