Beautiful Wood Nymph

By Julie Jansen

Wood Nymph butterfly
Wood Nymph butterfly

Eudryas grata is known by its common name, beautiful wood nymph.

It seems like a bit of a joke considering this moth purposefully looks like bird poop but indeed the common name for this species is "beautiful wood nymph." Scientifically, however, it is Eudryas grata, one of three species in the genus. And yes, all three have evolved to camouflage themselves as droppings. The technique is strange but brilliant. Few (if any) creatures that would dine on moths would also dine on bird droppings, so the camouflage is an ingenious twist of evolution. While unfurled and in flight, the wings of the moth actually are quite beautiful with white and cream tones and symmetrical stripes of dappled rust and black coloring along the edges. Curled up at rest, however, and they take on another appearance entirely. Found across eastern North America, from Nova Scotia on down to Florida and west into Texas, the beautiful wood nymph can be spotted by anyone willing to take a closer look at what they think might be bird poop but could possibly be a living, breathing being.

This species is at home in forests, meadows and gardens. Look for adults on Virginia creeper and grapevines. They fly during the day and do not eat. They reserve their energy for finding a mate and reproducing. The caterpillars of this moth feast on the leaves of the aforementioned host plants in addition to other related vines.

So take a closer look at bird poop…it might just be a moth!

References: treehugger.com, insectidentification.org and mdc.mo.gov