Orange Wing

Mellilla xanthometata


Photo of an Orange Wing moth
The orange wing moth’s bright orange hindwings identify it, even in flight. It’s abundant in all regions of Missouri.
Donna Brunet
Other Common Name
Orange Wing Moth

Geometridae (geometrid moths)


Orange wing moths are easily identified by their bright orange hindwings, even in flight. The hindwings of females, however, are usually more yellowish and not as brightly colored as males. The forewings of this rather small moth are gray, tan, or brown, with variable markings, but usually with straight lines and often a single dark spot. Like other geometrid moths, their bodies are relative thin (for moths), and they typically rest with the wings held flat, parallel to the surface they're resting on.

Larvae are green “inchworms,” with a brownish-orange head.

Similar species: This species is the only one in its genus in North America. There are many other species of geometrid moths (in the same family) in our state, but this one is distinctive for the orange hindwings that contrast with the bark-colored forewings. Most other geometrids have color patterns and markings that blend seamlessly across the forewings onto the hindwings.


Wingspan: ½–1 inch.

Habitat and conservation

The orange wing is easily flushed in the daytime and often flies some distance before settling again to rest. The food plant — honey locust — is widespread in our state: It occurs in wild areas, old fields, and roadsides, and a thornless variety is very popular for landscaping in cities and even big parking lots. With the food plant so widespread, this moth is widespread as well.


Larvae feed on the leaves of honey locust, and possibly those of other woody members of the legume family, too.

image of Orange Wing Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri



Abundant resident species.

Life cycle

Adults fly from early April into September, and they can be active day or night. This species is multibrooded in our state.

Human connections

Moths that are drawn to lights have long served as symbols for any irresistible attraction to something. Religious thinkers around the world have used the image of the moth burning up in the flame of a candle as a symbol for the human soul’s desire to unite with God.

Ecosystem connections

The caterpillars are herbivores that serve as a natural pruning mechanism on honey locusts. All stages — eggs, caterpillars, pupae, and adults — provide food for predators.