Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada
Clickable Guide
Moths Butterflies Flies Caterpillars Flies Dragonflies Flies Mantids Cockroaches Bees and Wasps Walkingsticks Earwigs Ants Termites Hoppers and Kin Hoppers and Kin Beetles True Bugs Fleas Grasshoppers and Kin Ticks Spiders Scorpions Centipedes Millipedes



Species Utetheisa ornatrix - Ornate Bella Moth - Hodges#8105

 Bella Moth - Utetheisa ornatrix Utetheisa bella - Utetheisa ornatrix Moth - Utetheisa ornatrix Orange Flyer - Utetheisa ornatrix Bella Moth? - Utetheisa ornatrix Bella Moth caterpillar   - Utetheisa ornatrix rattlebox moth - Utetheisa ornatrix Utetheisa ornatrix
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Noctuoidea (Owlet Moths and kin)
Family Erebidae
Subfamily Arctiinae (Tiger and Lichen Moths)
Tribe Arctiini (Tiger Moths)
Subtribe Callimorphina
Genus Utetheisa
Species ornatrix (Ornate Bella Moth - Hodges#8105)
Hodges Number
Other Common Names
Rattlebox Moth
Bella Moth
Ornate Moth
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Utetheisa ornatrix (Linnaeus, 1758)
syn. Utetheisa bella (Linnaeus, 1758)
* phylogenetic sequence # 930348

Utetheisa ornatrix and Utetheisa bella were formerly considered separate species, now lumped together under U. ornatrix (See Moths of North America, below.)
One species in the genus occurs in America north of Mexico.(1)

Two subspecies in North America are no longer recognized.(1)
wingspan 30-45 mm
larvae to 35 mm
adult forms:

Larva: orangish-brown with broad irregular black bands on each segment, and distinct white spots on anterior and posterior margins of black bands
mostly Eastern North America: Nova Scotia to Florida, west to Arizona, north to Minnesota and Ontario
also occurs south through Central America to northern South America
Fields, edges of forests; adults fly during the day
adults fly from July to September in north; all year in south
Larvae feed predominantly on legumes in the genus Crotalaria, commonly called Rattlebox; occasional hosts included bush-clover (Lespedeza spp.), elm, cherry, fireweed, lupine, Sweetgale (Myrica gale)
Crotalaria spectabilis(2)
Life Cycle
Larvae feed on plants of the genus Crotalaria (family Fabaceae) which contain poisonous pyrrolizidine alkaloids, and are able to store the chemicals systemically, retaining them through metamorphosis into the adult stage. At mating, the male transfers a substantial fraction of his alkaloidal load to the female with the sperm package (spermatophore). The gift is transmitted by the female in part to the eggs, together with a supplement of her own alkaloidal supply. All developmental stages of Utetheisa are protected by the alkaloid, the larvae and adults against spiders, and the eggs are avoided by ants and coccinellid beetles. The spermatophore is of substantial size, amounting on average to over 10% of male body mass. It also contains nutrient, which the female invests in egg production. Females mate on average with four to five males over their lifespan of 3 to 4 weeks.
[adapted from text by Vikram Iyengar]

Life cycle images:
eggs; first instar larvae; older larva; older larva; pre-pupal larva; pupa; adult

The mostly pink or yellow "bella" form is common and widespread, whereas the paler "ornatrix" form is restricted to southern Florida and southern Texas.
The courtship pheromones are enhanced because of pyrrolizidine alkaloids ingested by the larvae when eating Crotalaria spectabilis. The alkaloids are retained into the adult stage and protect the next generation of eggs.(2)
Print References
Covell, p. 63, plate 15 #12 (3)
Lafontaine J. D., and B. C. Schmidt 2010. Annotated check list of the Noctuoidea (Insecta, Lepidoptera) of North America North of Mexico. p. 19.(1)
Internet References
Moth Photographers Group - range map, photos of living and pinned adults.
BOLD - Barcode of Life Data Systems - species account with collection map and photos of pinned adults.
North Carolina State University Entomology Collection has 121 pinned, including specimens from that state.
distribution in Canada list of provinces (CBIF)
PNAS scientific paper on mating and chemical protection
illustrated article on mating and chemical protection (Thomas Eisner, Cornell U., New York)
female mate selection issues (Vikram Iyengar, Villanova U., Pennsylvania)
Works Cited
1.Annotated check list of the Noctuoidea (Insecta, Lepidoptera) of North America north of Mexico.
Donald J. Lafontaine, B. Christian Schmidt. 2010. ZooKeys 40: 1–239 .
2.How Life Increases Biodiversity
David Seaborg. 2022. CRC Press.
3.Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Moths
Charles V. Covell. 1984. Houghton Mifflin Company.