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

Fall Fund Drive

Do moths bite?

An insect that looked like a moth (Can't be sure) bit my son. It was in the Chain O'Lakes State Park, IL. Approx 1/2 inch long. the shape is similar to the pic on this link. curious as to what it may have been.


My son bitten by black butterfly
We watched a black butterfly float around the yard for a little while. No mistaking it ... definitely a butterfly. It landed on a flower and my son wrapped his hands around it to catch it and it stung him. He instantly let go and screamed. He ran to me crying, "it bit me... it bit me!!"
I watched the whole thing, it was definitely a black butterfly, not a moth or any other kind of insect. We live in Louisiana.
I saw a viral video of this guy freaking out about a black butterfly in his house, he was saying, "tell me that's not a Mexican butterfly!" I thought OMG.. that's got to be the kind of butterfly that stung my son but, I haven't been able to find any that sting or bite. There is no confusion though.... A black butterfly bit him so if anyone finds out what kind it is, let us know. so curious.

Floats like a black butterfly, stings like a bee....!
Reminds you of anyone?!! The flying insect that munched upon your son was not a butterly. Just for the record, there are no butterflies or moths that bite humans. There are some flies that have large wings and can be mistaken for a moth in a certain light. On the other hand, are you absolutely sure that the insect in question actually bit your son or did he just think it did? A little boy could freak out over the feel of an insect in his hands trying to get away. And I'm sure he liked the attention he got after the alleged sting. Did you see the visible aftermath of a sting or bite on your son's hand? Also, you say yourself that you did your research and couldn't find any record of a butterfly or moth that bites. There's your answer already. They don't exist. Plenty of other insects do though so why not look up a list of insects native to Louisiana that bite, sting, can cause infection, print it out and tape it to your fridge so that the next time you and your son are out on the back yard on a sunny day, he will know which insects are safe and which ones are to be enjoyed from a distance! Not only will you be safer, but he'll impress all his friends with his amazing knowledge!! ...................Remember, the only black creature known to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee was the late, great Mohammed Ali!

There may have been a thorn on the plant
or a bee or bug in the same flower, but no, butterflies do not bite as adults. They have a long tubular siphon for gathering nectar. No mouth parts that could bite and no stinger, sorry.

I have read that moths in the
I have read that moths in the genus Calyptra (Noctuidae) can indeed bite humans. I don't think any of them are generally found in North America, but I can't personally confirm this.

Deer Fly
They are not moths, they're deer flies. They do look like a small moth when they land, their wings are triangular in shape. They can be relentless like a horse fly, when you try to swat them away they come right back in. I live in Westford, MA and have had many encounters with them this year. They cut the surface of your skin and drink the blood, it can be quite painful. My daughter had a reaction to a bite from one of these and it became infectd and was treated with a topical antibiotic.

Moth Bite?
I live in Kentucky I was playing on the computer when this brown moth started flying around and running into me so i tryed to ketch it and felled then it flew back again running into me then i grabbed it to through it out side and i felt a sharp pain in my hand and i let go of him and there was a bite on my hand i didnt think moths in kentucky bit and to be honest i am still quite confused i know that there is one species of moth that bites but it doesnt live here so i guess either there is a new species of biting moth or an old one no one new bit if you have experienced the same thing or now about this please comment back

yes they do bite. one just bit me...
This moth has been flying around in my apartment and I didn't think much of it until it bit me last night and woke me up. I still didn't think it was the moth but there is nothing else in here. So I went about my day and I'm laying on the sofa earlier tonight and my foot starts itching. I get up and the moth is flying away from the area where my foot was. Still I'm thinking maybe its something else. I get up and vacuum the couch and the carpet and lay down after a while and then I feel another stinging itch on my arm and when I reach over to scratch it the moth is flying away from the area where my arm was. The thing fluttered under the loveseat and I'm hoping I was able to get him with the vacuum hose but I'm waiting to see if this thing emerges again. This is what made me log on here and these people are right. It certainly looks and flutters around like a moth to me. My arm is stiff and sore from the bite last night. It started out as a little tiny bite and now its a big round hard circle. I hope the same doesn't happen to the other arm and my foot. I don't know what this thing is but it looks and acts like a typical moth would. So none of you are crazy. Somebody needs to investigate this. I'm in California by the way so judging from the posts these things are all over the United States.

If you see it again...
...try to get a photo and post it to ID Request. Someone will be able to say for sure whether it's a moth or something else.

Another possibility--Cone-Nosed bugs
I agree that the occurrence of biting moths in the North America is highly unlikely (though worth investigating if confirmed). I also offer another possibility: Cone Nosed bugs. Something like this could certainly look like a moth to someone who's startled by its presence.

no way
that thing would've scared the crap outta me with it's big 'ol legs. It was definitely some type of moth. It was no horse fly or beetle looking bug.

biting/stinging moth or moth look-alike
I live in West-Central Georgia (Harris County), and encountered this insect April 22, 2010, in my front yard. It was narrowly triangular-shaped, approximately 1/2 inch to 3/4 long. The wings at rest seemed to be straight across the back, not notched, It was medium tan and had darker areas. It landed on the top of my hand and I felt a sharp pain similar to a thorn or splinter. It did not fly away when I shook my hand so I brushed it off. A few minutes it landed on my forearm, and I got it off before it bit/stung with much force. My hand stung for about an hour. It started swelling and furiously itching. I took Benadryl and used cortizone cream, but it still itches today and the skin is red and warm, possibly from all the rubbing and scratching. Still taking antihistimines.

I had the same thing happen to me!
I live in North-East GA (by Lula) This happen last night (May 31, 2012). I was on the front porch and it felt like a stinger or splinter...a very sharp pain! I saw the bug. It definitely looked like a moth. No horse fly or deer fly or whatever these other people are saying...i'm no idiot. Mine did sting for about an hour too, but never swelled or itched. The sting/bite looks like it could have been from a splinter.

Same thing happened to me
I was in a store in Naperville, IL, this weekend when the bug landed on my arm. I felt the sting and tried to shake it off, but it didn't move, so I flicked it off. No visible damage was immediately apparent, but in less than an hour, I developed what looked like poison ivy type bumps. These bumps are wet and oozy, and quite itchy. The itch is greater than with a mosquito bite and the redness covers a much bigger area than that from a mosquito. It's a patch, not just a single bite. The bug was 1/2 to 3/4-inches long, with triangular wings covering the entire back of the body. The wings had red dots on a dark brown or black background. I could not see a head like you can with a fly, nor could I see what was biting into my arm. There was no stinger, nor were there any body segments - all that was visible were the wings, making me think it was a moth. The initial prick was more bite-like than sting-like, plus it didn't hurt as bad as it did when I was stung by a wasp. And the bite was felt from the very beginning, unlike a mosquito sting that you don't feel until after the fact. Does this sound like something a horsefly could do?

Contact dermatitis from moths
The oozing patch sounds more like a “contact dermatitis” that you can get from moths ( and more often from caterpillars). A variety of moths can cause this type of contact reaction. One common group in this part of the world is the tiger moths, some of which produce defensive secretions. Most tiger moths are white with organ markings on the body or underwings, although there are some that are closer to your description. I just don’t know all of the tiger moths that produce these secretions. Most of the species of moth that have urticating hairs as caterpillars can cause reactions as adults as well.

After looking at the pictures of the tiger moths, I'm quite sure that's what landed on me. I just happened to be visiting my doctor and mentioned the moth and my new itchy, oozy patch, and she too said that it looked like contact dertatitis. For a little moth, it certainly made a big itchy mess on my arm!

My Daughter was bit by a moth
I was at a wooded playground with my son and 10 month old daughter. I looked down at her head and saw what looked like a moth. I brushed it away and saw a droplet of blood. It was NOT a horsefly, it did bite away a big chunk of her skin like horseflies do. It was brown and flat and had a brown transluscent head. The place where it stung/bit was near a vein and the vein turned dark purple. I rushed home (less than a mile) and by then the vein was no longer purple, but there is a dark red bump where it stung/bit. I can't tell if it itches - she's a baby. But it was NOT a horsefly, it was sme kind of moth. We live in Massachusetts.

I agree.
Yes, it was Winter when this happened and the only bug EVER in our house during Winter are moths. I fell asleep one night and then the next day, I found a dark red bite/bump/mark on my forehead, chest, and in the crease of my nose. I believe that is what happened but I wasn't awake to see the purple part. I was told they don't but I think that any bug can either bite, sting, or make a mark on you some how. Read this: they may not necessarily bite, they may just burn you somehow.

It itched a little bit at first only when you touched it, then it started to burn slightly, but its very hard to notice.


so all the entomologists are wrong?
and you are right?

Insect diversity
There are no documented cases of biting moths in North America that I know of. Those moth species that do bite in other places have shorter, stiffer probosci (mouthparts modified into a central tube). The wound would likely be a single puncture mark. In contrast, flies belonging to the family Tabanidae have scissoring mouthparts that are fairly unique, and they use saliva with an anticoagulant that causes that visible blood over the wound. There are many species of tabanid flies, only some of which are represented here on BugGuide, or elsewhere on the internet. There is more variation within the family Tabanidae than many people realize. Even I have mistaken resting horseflies for moths. While you seem certain that “it was NOT a horsefly” I would suspect that you have not seen all the species of horsefly that exist in your area, and instead imagine one or two common species as representative of what all horseflies look like. Tips to distinguish them are that most moth species hide during the day and fly slowly at night. In contrast, most horsefly species are active during the day and fly quickly. Based on your description of the wound, I suspect that it was a tabanid. I wish that we had more species of tabanids represented in BugGuide to help you identify what the species was, but they are difficult to photograph because they are so quick.

I've killed dozens, so if I'm not being bitten by moths then...?
    *uses his handheld bug zapper as a defibrillator for this thread*
They're triangular, greyish-brown and ~10-20mm depending upon the direction you're measuring across. I've zapped more than I can count, this season alone, with my handheld bug-zapping electric fly swatter (I've even got a few of their corpses in each of a few different piles) and I've sat here and watched them bite me. They do it constantly until I kill them all... then if I'm dumb enough to open the door, they swarm in again. There's usually tonnes of them on the outside of the glass panels of my french back doors at night, just like right now. Seldom a single one to be found during the day, generally only if I happen to disturb wherever they were camping out for the day. They're actually quite irritating, more so than mosquitoes, which I don't mind at all. These little SoBs really sting when they bite and they do it constantly, it makes me not even wanna sit here and do my thermochem homework... I love chem, especially thermochem. >:*( When I reflexively react to a bite, they slowly flop away like a moth... Until I zap 'em like they deserve, muahahahahaaaaaa! ...No ideas anyone on bread or how to rid myself of the stupid things? ...I know two entomologists, but I didn't realize that this would potentially be some unknown species, so I've never even thought to mention it to them... I'll try to remember to do so after summer finals are over.

This site is wonderful for telling you what this critter is. It is all about showing us a photo. Please snap any kind of photo of the live ones or the dead ones. Submit the photo to ID request and be sure to tell where you are. You will very likely get an identification and can then find lots of info about them.

bitten by what looked like a moth
I felt a strange kind of bug bite this evening and looked down to see what looked like a small brown moth (something like a clothes moth in size) as soon as I saw it I felt it biting me and a deep sharp pain almost like a bee sting... alarmed I swatted at it and killed it ..I have the pieces of th dead moth... any suggestions where I can take it in Massachusetts for evaluation...I have never seen or been bitten by a bug like this. As soon as I was bitten, the top of my hand started to swell in the spot where bitten in a line not in a round like a normal bug bite...I know that the truth is stranger than fiction but this is trully wierd..frankly I am a little concerned...any suggestions?????

moth bite in Boston
I live in Norwell (south of Boston) and my little girl was bit. What happens? Does it just go away like a normal bite/sting?

If it's still identifiable
try posting an image to our ID Request section. And you might try calling your local County Extension Office to get suggestions on where to go locally for an ID.

Same thing happened to me!
When I was a little kid some kind of moth landed on my knee and stayed there until it started to tickle me. Now I was little so I brushed it away and a second later my knee started itching. Well I scratched it and it sent a shockwave of intense pain right through my body. Needless to say I now have a deep hatred and fear of moths no matter what kind they are and to this day I have never let another moth touch me.

Oh and it bit me near some kind of drainage pipe if that means anything. I can't remember the parks name but it's somewhere in Colorado where I live.

And no one, not even my own family believes me even after more than 10 years(I'm 17 now and I was probably bitten when I was like 5 or 6 just to put it in retrospective).

must have been a fly

biting moth
they are both fly and moth....I know believe me. I had a dermatologist do a biopsy on a nest which was on my back right beneath my shoulder. Results next week. The moth lands on the skin and it is shaped like a triangle ranging from white to very dark brown. Their whings looked like wind ripped flags at the edges. The head has a almost invisible hook like antenna which sinks into the skin and attaches. The wings have sticky hairs that when touched or swatted will attach themselves immediately. Be pepared to loose a lot of blood and 3 or 4 layers of skin with it if you try to rip it off. Underneath the moth grows a little black fly which will remain hidden until it's grown enough to help the moth care for it's eggs. It will develop lots of them and eventually infest the poor soul who has it. The wings also have a stinging sensation if you touch them long enough. The black flies bite and tend to eggs which are invisible but can be felt. It can then be picked apart and peeled off, still bloody to get off but this will also make sure all things under the little bastard are dead as well. Bandage with water proof cover so other moths and flies won't smell the blood or old nest. I don't know what these things are, but they will get in your hair, bite your ass, and leave scars which last for months. My husband and I have fought these creatures (kind word) for months now. Terminex cannot identify we have tried. Your animals are susceptable as well so keep them clean. If someone can identify these little @#$%#$@ please let me know. Yes, Moths bite. Shampoo your carpet and keep laundry washed. They like the bathroom and kitchen areas because of humidity. Good luck and I will post what the biopsy is next week. Wish me luck. These are pests and need erratication! To date nobody will believe me when I say moths do bite, until I show them the one stuck on my ankle. OUCH! but coming off slowly. I smile and tell them to touch it.....I know that is mean but a little burn is like believing isn't it?

[comment edited by moderator to remove medical advice]

Me too
I went to cancune , and came home with an itchy head bought lice medicine no help , felt little raised bumps on my scalp , then noticed small moth flying out of hair , been to drs no use they think I'm nuts , used tea tree oil , baking soda , vinegar , it has helped keeping them from maturing but everytime I wash my hair little black things in tub ! Spivey 1

biting moth
Believe me I feel your pain dealing with these things as we have been fighting them for several years now. Of course every doctor in the state thinks we are crazy and I don't really care what they think. Soooo closed minded. Like my surgeon said and I quote: "Anyone who tells you they know all there is to know about a disease or a bug is a fool. With all the different people we have coming from different countries (and he was not talking bad about anyone coming into this country) no one could know all there is to know about everything, they just are not willing to admit that they do not know everything because they went to college to learn about all that." Because of these things; my husband has had to have his thyroid removed and now mine is enlarged but the surgeon I spoke of is trying a different route. They did all the tests and they are some kind of moth living in my thyroid. Now most thyroid doctors will tell you if that was so you would be dead or so several told my husband; but here I am to live and fight these things. When you pull one off and man does it hurt you can tell by looking that it is a moth of some kind. Takes forever for sore to get well because everything has to come out of it before it will get well as it seems that you know. Hope things get better for you and you do not get infested with these things because by the time you do; there is war to get rid of them since until they bite you really can not see them.

Good luck!

Disregarding the apparent DP, one possibility is Psychodidae subfam. Phlebotominae - sand flies. These very small flies are often hairy, triangular in shape, and blood-feeding (but of course don't lay eggs under the skin). Phlebotominae typically prefer drier areas but the family is ubiquitous in the U.S.

I'm baffled as to what this can be
but if you still have them and could post a clear picture of one in ID Request, perhaps one of our experts could help identify it.

son bitten by something??
my son was bitten by something wide and flat. it seemed really large. I don't think it was a dragon fly because it was slow, flat and no noise coming from it. it really hurt and left a red mark with white around it then a large pink area around that.
We live in the Seattle area.
What in the world was this thing? I thought for sure it was a moth??
Maybe some type of bird?
Thank you...

Sorry, this is late--Giant Water Bug?
That sounds a lot like a Giant Water Bug. They bite and hurt, and sometimes leave the water; however, they rarely if ever do any real damage.

I was paintballing yesterday
I was paintballing yesterday and had a sting on my wrist. I looked down and saw a little brown moth looking thing on my wrist. I tried to blow him off of my wrist and he didnt move. It looked like he was biting me and with the stinging I smashed him against my leg. I didnt think much of it.
This morning my wrist has itched non stop. I searched for moth bites and havent found anything. It was moth like. Not a fly. And it did bite me, it was stuck on my arm. Just wanted to add to the discussion and dismiss the fly theory.

Sounds like...
a horse fly or deer fly in the Family Tabanidae. They can be quite huge, often holding their wings in a way that looks vaguely moth-like:

By all accounts (I'm lucky enough to have no personal experience) the bite definitely hurts a lot.

A Sphingidae?
What if the "bite" was caused by the tarsial spine (hope it's how you call them in english, or at least that you understand what i'm meaning) of a sphingidae...
For somebody who don't look closely, getting stabed by such spine would be as getting a bite or sting, cause without closer inspection, very few no-entomologist would understand the true source of such a "sting".

interesting theory
I never thought of the little hooks on the feet! Interesting theory! I have several pet arthropods, and sometimes those little feet are downright uncomfortable when they walk along my arm! I have to remember to warn my students about it, so they don't panic thinking my giant cockroaches (Blaberus) bit them.

Aren't sphinx moths rather large? Our mystery "biting moth" is described as being smallish. I am still inclined towards a deer fly or horsefly... they are sorta triangular-shaped at rest (as in on a person's arm), and they can take a real chunk out of a person! (I can say that with total confidence, having been victimized by them on numerous occassions!)

Bitten also . . .
I was out mowing the lawn and got too close to a tree or something, felt a sting or a bite, quickly looked down in my shirt - on the left side, and scooped a small stick-like looking moth out of my bra! It has been 3 days ago and still itches like crazy! I wasn't sure moths could bite, don't know what kind it was, but MAN, the itch is driving me crazy!

check this site

You might want to check out for a clue on what your itchy critter was. It's a helpful site, and like this one, very very easy to get side-tracked on! So much cool stuff.

Biting Moth
My daughter, who is working in Wyoming, just called to say she was bitten by a small brown moth (approx. 1/2-inch). She flicked it off, and her roommate smashed it in a panic. The moth left a smear of blood. My first thought was a deer or horse-fly, but they swear it was a moth. Any suggestions?

sounds about the right size f
sounds about the right size for a horsefly. Their bites really smart!

Did they get rid of it?
Even smashed, it might be identifiable by an entomologist.

Either not a moth, or not a bite.
Although the image you refer to (below) is a moth, it can't have bitten your son since moths have no biting mouthparts - their mouthparts (called a proboscis) are like a long curled drinking straw. I've had butterflies "taste" my skin with a proboscis (they'll sometimes drink sweat), and I don't think the sensation could be mistaken for a bite. I don't even know if moths would behave the same way - many don't feed at all in the adult stage.

I think a more likely culprit would be a fly. Maybe someone else can suggest one that resembles this moth.

There is one species of moth that does bite
There is one species of moth that does bite in Southeast Asia named Calyptra thalictri

Horse fly?
Maybe it's a horse fly (Tabanidae). They bite, and it hurts. Personally, I don't think they look like moths but...
See the guide here:

Sorta, Kinda true
NA moths don't bite (how considerate) but some Asian Noctuid moths can and do pierce the skin of large mammals to get a blood meal!! The proboscis is short, stout, and pointed in these species.

I looked up the Vampire Moths, and they consist of a few species of Calyptra found in Southeast Asia. There's one nearctic species in the same genus, Calyptra canadensis, which is flying now- this image was posted a few days ago: [deleted since message first posted]

What are the odds that our species might share an undocumented behavioral trait with its Southeast Asian relatives?

Interesting Hypothesis, Chuck!
You could very well be onto something...check out this National Geographic News video/story, which came out over two years after your post above. Jennifer Zaspel, an entomologist from Univ. of Florida, discovered a human-blood-feeding Vampire Moth (Lepidoptera: Erebidae: Calpini) in Siberia. Quoting from the video:

"In far-eastern Russia, near the China border, entomologists may have caught evolution in the act. They found a previously undocumented population of vampire moths. In south and central Europe, another moth species, Calyptra thalictri, feeds only on fruit. But during experiments, when the Russian moths were offered human hands, they drilled their hook-and-barb-lined tongues under the skin, and sucked blood."

Quite interesting. And according to the video, only males were observed taking blood.

But even in the unlikely event that this were to end up being a partial explanation for some of the seemingly mis-diagnosed blame which various "bite-ees" have voiced in this thread, all such "bite-ees" should be strongly advised to avoid jumping to conclusions, and to seriously attempt to photograph and collect any of their putative "moth" culprits. From the informal descriptions given in some of the comments above, many make it sound like they have had repeated and frequent contact with these biting "moths". So the lack of further documentation (i.e. no specimens collected and sent to BugGuide contacts, not even any photos) tends to lead me to think many of them were indeed mistakenly blaming moths for bites of either sand flies (Psychodidae, subfamily Phlebotominae), as pointed out earlier in the thread by Jon Oliver, or by horseflies (Tabaniidae), as suggested by many others. [Perhaps, on recognizing their error, some "bite-ies" lost interest in pursuing the ID issue on BugGuide. Otherwise, you'd think they would have taken the challenge, as they're findings would be quite remarkable...enough so, you would think, to make it worth the effort to provide further hard evidence.]

I think the sand fly hypothesis deserves more emphasis in this thread. After all they're a subfamily of Psychodidae---known by the common name of "Moth Flies". For more info on the sand fly connection, check out this site, or this site. The images on those web pages show that sand flies do have an appearance that could be mistaken for a moth. [Please Note: I included the preceding links because they have good images of sand flies...I didn't intend to cause any (likely undue) anxiety about the disease "Leishmaniasis". According to the 2nd link: "Leishmaniasis is found in Central America, South America, Western Asia, and the Middle East. The preponderance of cases (over 90%) occur in Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Nepal, and Sudan. The disease is also found in southern Texas within the United States." So most US & Canadian BugGuide readers will be outside its range.]

Considering the vast diversity of moths, the relative frequency of most people running into a blood-sucking "vampire moth" is probably exceedingly infinitesimal. It would be sad to see moths, as a whole, unduly stigmatized and dispised by some based on the existence of a tiny number of vampire moths. That's what happened to bats!! Bats are the second most speciose groups of mammals (after rodents). Estimates run from around 900 to 1100 species...between 1/5 and 1/4 of all mammal species are bats. Of those, there are only three relatively uncommon and unnumerous species of blood-feeding vampire bats!! They're distribution is limited to Central America and environs, and they rarely feed on humans. Yet vampire bat fascination (and hysteria) is firmly entrenched in popular culture in many parts of the world, and bats have been greatly misunderstood and abused by humans because of this unfortunate ignorance. In many ways, bats are highly beneficial to human interests, particularly as unparalleled insectivores of pest species (including, no doubt, vampire moths :-)

Speaking of sandflies...
Out of the 365000+ images on BugGuide, we have zero confirmed or even suspected images of Phlebotominae- that's zilch, zip!

I'm sure they're not common, but there are a decent number of species north of Mexico, so you'd think someone would find one...

1 2
next page
last page
Comment viewing options
Select your preferred way to display the comments and click 'Save settings' to activate your changes.