Here’s Where You Can Spot a Giant Leopard Moth

Updated: Mar. 22, 2023

What's that polka-dotted moth? Learn all about the giant leopard moth, including where to find one, what its caterpillar looks like and more.

Giant Leopard Moth Range

12 Bbam23 LindapeeveyCourtesy Linda Peevey
A mystery moth visited a reader’s backyard.

“What kind of moth is this?” asks Birds & Blooms reader Linda Peevey.

Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman say, “This strikingly patterned creature is a giant leopard moth (Hypercompe scribonia). A member of the tiger moth group, it’s widespread from the eastern United States (and a little of southeastern Canada) south through Mexico and Central America to northwestern South America. However, it seems to be uncommon everywhere in its range, so it’s always a treat to see one. Giant leopard larvae, which are spiny with black-and-orange markings, feed on the leaves of a wide variety of plants.”

Learn all about garden moths and find out why they are important pollinators.

Another reader captured a striking moth photo when one visited her garden.

275781058 1 Virginia Ostervik Bnb Bypc 2021Courtesy Virginia Ostervik
Look for the unique black and white pattern on the wings

“I was just working in my flower beds when I saw this most unusual moth (above), so I snapped this shot. I loved the black and white markings of the moth against the red geranium!” says Birds & Blooms reader Virginia Ostervik.

What’s the difference between a moth vs a butterfly?

What Does a Giant Leopard Moth Look Like?

305260122 1 Susan Collins Bnb Pc 2022Courtesy Susan Collins
Giant leopard moth on a catnip plant

These delightful moths are usually pretty easy to identify. To tell whether you’re looking at one, look for the distinctive white wings with black-bordered or solidly black spots. When the moth spreads its wings, look for an abdomen that boasts striking colors, including shimmery blue and orange. The moth’s wingspan is approximately 3 inches, but lengths varying from 1 to 2 inches based on gender (females are smaller).

As with many butterflies and moths in North America, there’s a specific season to find them. When people spot giant leopard moths, they tend to do so between the months of May through September.

Meet 5 silk moths that might be in your backyard.

What Do the Caterpillars Look Like?

Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar on a tree branch.Brett_Hondow/Getty Images
Giant leopard moth caterpillar

The caterpillars eat a wide assortment of foods, including sunflowers, cherries, cabbages and violets. Giant leopard moth caterpillars overwinter in their final-stage larval form, and then form a cocoon in the spring.

Next, check out interesting hummingbird moth facts.