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Heliotrope Moth

Common name for a 2.5 centimeter sized tiger moth, with the scientific designation Utetheisa pulchelloides and belonging to the family Arctiidae. It has a wingspan of up to 3 centimeters. Its forewings are blotched with pinkish-orange and black spots, whilst the hindwings are white with two brownish-black spots and an irregular brownish-black margin. Its body is pale greyish-white, with a row of tiny black spots lining the lower flanks. The adult moth is superficially similar to the Crotalaria Moth (Utetheisa lotrix), though there are subtle anatomical differences, and the pattern of pinkish-orange and black spots is different, with the second row of black spots from the apex of the forewing being somewhat larger and much more intense in the latter, which also has a reddish-orange spot at the shoulder or tornus, i.e. the corner of a wing where the outer margin meets the inner margin, of each forewing. Its caterpillars are black with orange spots and broken cream lines along the body, and the larvae contain poisonous alkaloids that discourage predators from eating them. This moth is active by day fluttering low over the ground like a small butterfly. Its common name derives from the fact that it feeds on plants from Boraginaceae family, which includes the Garden Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens) and the Indian Heliotrope (Heliotropium indicum), of which the latter –due to the shape of its coiling inflorescence of small flower clusters– is in Thai known as ya nguong chang, i.e. ‘elephant-trunk weed’ (fig.). This moth is found in the Indo-Australian region, including India, China, and most of Southeast Asia and Australia. Adults are known to frequently embark on extensive migratory flights and can reach the most remote oceanic islands.