Noctuidae (owlet moths)
Adult eight-spotted foresters are butterfly-like: They fly during the day, drink from flowers, and even have antennae that are thickened at the tips. The overall wing color is black. The forewings have two pale yellow spots; the hindwings have two white spots. The body is mostly black. The front and middle pairs of legs have patches of bright orange hairs. The flight is fast and darting. The black and white pattern creates a flickering effect like a strobe light.
Larvae are whitish lavender, with each segment having several narrow, black transverse lines and one wide orange band. There are small black tubercles on the body, and white spots in the abdominal area. The head is orange.
Wingspan: 1–1½ inches.
Adults are most often found where wooded areas border open areas — the open areas offer the flowers the adults drink from, and the wooded areas provide the grapevines and Virginia creeper they eat as larvae and upon which they lay their eggs.
Larvae feed on grapes (both wild and cultivated) and on Virginia creeper. The adults feed like butterflies on flower nectar.
Adults are most commonly seen in spring, when they emerge from their cocoons, and again in August, when the second brood appears. This species overwinters in the pupal stage, hidden in soil or in crevices in wood. Unlike most other moths, this species flies during the daytime.
The caterpillars can be a pest on grape leaves, though their grazing on Missouri’s innumerable wild grape vines and Virginia creeper causes grief to few people.
The caterpillars are herbivores that graze on vegetation. The adults serve a role in pollination. All stages provide food for predators.
Butterflies, skippers, and moths belong to an insect order called the Lepidoptera — the "scale-winged" insects. These living jewels have tiny, overlapping scales that cover their wings like shingles. The scales, whether muted or colorful, seem dusty if they rub off on your fingers. Many butterflies and moths are associated with particular types of food plants, which their caterpillars must eat in order to survive.