Giant Leopard Moth

September 12, 2011 — 30 Comments

I named my site “Life of an Architect” because some days would be “architect” days and others would be “life”. I had a life moment last night that I wanted to share – I’ll resume with the architecture type stuff tomorrow.

Giant Leopard Moth

This is a Giant Leopard Moth (Scientific name is “Hypercompe scribonia” from the Order Lepidoptera). Until Saturday night, not only had I never seen one before, I have never heard of one before … until I found one in my bathroom.


Giant Leopard Moth

So I was watching TV reading the encyclopedia and my wife came out and told me there was an issue in the bathroom

Michelle: “Bob? There is something in the bathroom that you need to go look at.”

Bob: “Excuse me?!”

Michelle: “There is a  long, giant thing that…”

Bob: “Hey, Hey HEEEYYYYY!!”

Michelle: (sighing, flopping head back and looking at the ceiling…). “It’s a bug. It’s high up on the wall above the toilet. Pretty sure it has some stingers…


So I walked into the bathroom, looked high up on the wall above the toilet and saw a really cool bug. First thing I did was go get my camera with my new wide angle lens (isn’t that what you would have done?)


giant leopard moth

I have a rule about killing bugs since I don’t like to actually kill them. It’s not that I won’t or that I think it’s gross … I just don’t think I have any business killing things unless they get all up in my biz-nass. Here are my killin’ rules (yes, I have some Type A personality traits and as a result, I have “developed” rules for killing stuff):

  1. You don’t kill something if it’s where it’s supposed to be. This guideline is pretty straight forward.
  2. You don’t kill something if relocating is a viable option. This guideline can occasionally get into a gray area simply because of the word “if” – it’s open to some level of interpretation. I don’t have a problem grabbing a cricket that has found it’s way inside but that isn’t true with everyone in my house. If I am not around, termination is quite possible.
  3. You can kill “bad” things if they are where they shouldn’t be. “Where they shouldn’t be” is define by being inside my house and is really focused on the potential to damage my personal property. This also includes anything that stings and guideline #2 isn’t an option (you know … because of the “stinging”). This is basically the inverse of #1 with a twist.
  4. You can kill anything that’s defined in rule #3 but relocation isn’t an option because they will simply come back. The coming back is the reason for this guideline but there could be any number of additional reasons (like it’s warm inside and known predators are outside).
  5. You can kill any and all ants for leisure or sport. I really just don’t like ants and have given myself exempt status where they are concerned.

I think these are pretty reasonable rules myself but then again, the ants might think otherwise.

.giant leopard moth


giant leopard moth


giant leopard moth.

I’m a little sad because I don’t think this Giant Leopard Moth is going to make it. I was very careful when relocating it outside (i.e. didn’t touch the wings) but “Mothra”- as we are now calling it – is still in the same basic area where I put him 20 hours ago. I was hoping that he had come out of the chrysalis (ie – cocoon) and just needed to let his wings dry out a bit before flying off to wherever Mothra’s damn well please. My fingers are crossed but I don’t have a good feeling.

At any rate, maybe most of you are familiar with the Giant Leopard Moth, I wasn’t (thank you Internet). The natural beauty found in nature is staggering and inspiring.

Have a great Monday.




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  • Margaret Manzi

    As an architect, you should be more tolerant of ants. They are the enemies of termites, so if you have an ant colony near your house, you’re unlikely to have termite infestations.

    • Luckily I don’t have termite issues to contend with so it frees up my time to destroy ants that wander in to my yard looking to colonize every square inch.

      Black ants get a free pass as they don’t go looking for a fight whereas fire ants, which is what I have to deal with, are jerks.

      • Margaret Manzi

        Ah, well, if it’s fire ants you’re contending with, your policy is completely reasonable. Stomp away.

  • jilka

    I found one and it was injured, it ended up dying and I put it in a little jar, I came back later and it had cordyceps growing out of it :O…. Gross and sad.. buried the little guy after an alcohol soak to kill the fungus.

  • Calico Roni Rosenberg

    i too found your page after looking for an ID on one of these guys. ive recently moved to texas and am often befuddled and amazed with the ‘wildlife’. definitely the first thing i do when i see any cool or just weird critter is run for the camera. and i just dont like killing things… so i dont. but when my roommate starts screaming for me because there is a bug in her room i do like to say things along the lines of, ‘oh, those are the ones that crawl inside your ear and eat your brain.’ its the little things in life

  • Apparently ants hate cinnamon. If it works for you, you might consider amending your “no kill” rules. 🙂

  • Nia

    My cousin and i just found one on a piece of lumber,  i came straight on the computer and to the internet, found out it was called a leopard moth but all the pics we saw showed them to be white with black spots. but this one is pink- a light pink- with black spots. i tried to get it to spread its wings, but it only fluttered them a bit. its underside is so beautiful i see a bright orange the same pink that is on its back and blue (it could be black as well). the worst part is i dont have a camera to take a pic so you can see it. i’m in Jamaica.

  • Kelsmk

    Found a Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar today crossing the driveway.  Looked it up on the internet and came across your story and pics.  Funny and interesting.  I’m in Hayward, WI.

  • Pegina

    I found the Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar today, curled up under wet leaves–black spikes with red band.
    This GLM is a beauty. I’ve never seen one before here in NW Indiana.
    Thank you everyone for contributing comments.

  • Reynaldo Bustamante

    Today it happened to me in the same way. I found this beautiful animal on the floor of my bathroom in El Salvador, Central America. I took a lot of pictures and even those taken with the Blackberry did no look real to those whom I mailed it immediately. As soon as I know how to load them up on internet I will do it with those taken with my professionall camera. Your rules are very OK. 

  • nichole moore

    Found your post when I was looking for the name of the black caterpiller that we found in our grass here in eastern PA. Thanks for the pics and BTW..Love the rules! I think I’ll  incorporate one or two of your rules into my list.

  • Dianne

    We have to have different “killing rules” where we live, in the mountains near Santa Fe. Rattlesnakes (my husband can’t hear them rattling) and mice (husband survived hantavirus 2 years ago but has serious lasting aftereffects) are on our kill immediately list. This moth would be in our relocate category. Beautiful photos.

  • The shots are amazing. You got so close, you can see the fur on it’s body.

  • I applaud your killing rules and they are pretty much my own.  In fact, I let a mouse live in the house all winter, even fed it, and gave it water.  It didn’t become a problem until the spring when it turned out it was a she.  Mrs. Mouse was also with children.  So, in the spring I caught them and let them go out by the corn field.

    The mice were interesting.  As long as I fed them and kept water available, they wouldn’t bother me.  If I forgot, one would come find me, and run out into my field of vision.  Then the little guy/gal would run towards the basement door, usually stopping and making sure I was on my way.  I would then give them crackers.

    I know mice carry disease and it wasn’t a good idea, but the original mouse was just trying to avoid freezing to death, when she chose my basement.  I’m glad I didn’t kill them.  I have taken precautions to prevent their return this winter.  I hope they are well.

    • they are probably great-great-great grandmiceparents by now. I’m sure all 1,217 of their children thank you

      • When I let them go, they did give me a look, as if to say, “What did we do?”  I felt bad about evicting them.  But I got over it.

  • shtrum

    Similar rules here (only substitute mosquito/fly with ant).  In central Ohio, the bug de rigueur at the moment is the praying mantis.   Have gotten to see a couple up close this season; the 10-year-old is both morbidly fascinated with how the female bites off the head of the male, and thinks it’s stupid.  i tell him to get used to it . . . especially if the male wears his tennis shoes in the house after the female has vacuumed.

    • Haha!

      As far as your female vacuuming praying mantis, her behaviour just makes good sense…

  • Nancie Mills Pipgras

    Way cool.  Great inspiration for a mosaic!

  • Nancie Mills Pipgras

    Way cool.  Great inspiration for a mosaic!

  • Anonymous

    I hope he lives.

    The term I usually use to identify any UFO in my house larger than a quarter is Teradactyl. Usually gets a few laughs.

    • any UFO in my house larger than a quarter is called:


  • Bob Swinburne

    I sometimes leave the porch light on so my daughter and I can check out the moths in the morning.  I got hold of a rare and out of print moth identification guide as well.  Envious of your wide angle lens.  I think I’ll stick my latest moth photo on my facebook page.

    • I bet you get some pretty interesting moths considering where you live. We don’t generally get anything too exotic so this was a special occasion (as special as finding a giant bug in your house can be)

  • If I can put any of the outdoor creatures onto a piece of paper and transport them outside before they actually touch my skin, they live. If they touch me, I squeal & scream (very talented that way), which causes me to drop them, which forces me to then occasionally stomp on them to prevent them from attacking me in a violent fashion. You now know my feeling about spiders & things that fly in the house. Except ladybugs, which are exempt due to cuteness.

    • Similar rules that my wife follows. I do have to give her (my wife) credit because I didn’t want some crazy fear of bugs to get passed down to my daughter Kate so she generally puts up a brave front. 

      … until Kate wanted to keep a tarantula we saved from the old man across the street that was planning on stepping on it. 

    • Ladybugs bite. Especially the orange ones, which look like ladybugs, but are actually extremely vicious Asian Beetles, an invasive species that should be stomped on repeatedly.

  • If I can put any of the outdoor creatures onto a piece of paper and transport them outside before they actually touch my skin, they live. If they touch me, I squeal & scream (very talented that way), which causes me to drop them, which forces me to then occasionally stomp on them to prevent them from attacking me in a violent fashion. You now know my feeling about spiders & things that fly in the house. Except ladybugs, which are exempt due to cuteness.

  • Erik Jens

    Dang Bob, beautiful moth! I thought my wife was the one who coined the ‘Mothra’ term. She uses it quite often to describe all sorts of bugs that meet criteria #2 above (basically, in the house).  The nice side of me hopes the moth lives.  Nice lens.

    • I left the house to early to go looking for it this morning. I imagine if he didn’t make it I’ll find him when I get home.