The New International Encyclopædia/Owlet-moth

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OWLET-MOTH. Any one of the night-flying moths of the family Noctuidæ. This is a large assemblage of moths of rather strikingly characteristic and rather uniform appearance, comprising in the United States more than 2100 species, which are almost without exception injurious to vegetation. The moths, as a rule, are of sombre colors, averaging perhaps 1.50 inch in wing expanse. The fore wings are comparatively narrow, rather short and stout, and crossed by a series of wavy lines, with two usually darker or paler spots near the centre of the wing. The hind wings are usually without markings, and when at rest are concealed by the fore wings, which overlap and cover them, either flat upon the back or roof-like. The body is large in proportion to the size of the wings. The thorax is heavy and quite stout, and in some species the scales on the upper surface are turned up, forming tufts. The abdomen is conical and extends beyond the inner angle of the hind wings when these are spread. The popular name, owlet-moth, is derived from the nocturnal habits of these insects, and from the fact that often when they are in obscurity their eyes shine brightly.

Some of the caterpillars are hairy, but the more typical ones are naked, and perhaps the most characteristic are the forms commonly known as cutworms (q.v.). They range from an inch to an inch and a half in length and have dull colors, ranging from dirty gray to dirty brown with a few longitudinal stripes. They hide during the day a little behnv the surface of the ground and often at the base of the plants upon which they feed, and during the night come out to eat whatever vegetation they can find. The eggs are laid on trees, stones, or leaves, and the larvae hatch, as a rule, late in the summer, and pass the winter in a half-grown condition hidden beneath stones or logs or under the surface of the ground. In the spring they come out after this long fast and devour the new vegetation with avidity. Some of them will climb trees and are known as ‘climbing cutworms.’

The army-worm (q.v.) is a famous member of this family, as are also the wheat-head army-worm, the fall army-worm, the cotton caterpillar of the South, and the tomato-worm. The best remedy consists in ridding the land prepared for gardens before setting out the plants, by distributing here and there bunches of freshly cut grass or other vegetation which has previously been poisoned with Paris green.

Consult: Edwards, Standard Natural History, vol. ii. (Boston, 1884); Smith, Manual of Economic Entomology (Philadelphia, 1896); Comstock, Manual for the Study of Insects (Ithaca, 1895).