If you see one of these insects flying in southern Florida and parts of the Caribbean you might mistake it for a stinging wasp. It’s a day-flying moth that looks, flies and acts like a wasp, which is a great defense against natural predators. Its vivid colors also advertise its toxicity.

But no visual display will protect it from the human activities that now threaten this species. Insecticides for mosquitoes and crop pests are systematically sprayed in areas near where they live—and even limited use may harm these and other insects. Invasive plants may crowd out the moths’ favored host plants, on which they lay eggs and feed as larvae.

One potentially bright spot is that some of the rocky habitat where the lesser wasp moth lives is within the protected Everglades National Park, in Florida. Preserved lands might seem ideal habitats for conserving vulnerable species, but fertilizer runoff and pesticide drift from nearby farms can spread, sometimes harming wildlife within a park’s boundaries.

Lesser wasp moth
Pseudocharis minima
1.2–1.4 inches (30–35 mm)
Vulnerable (natureserve)
Ecological Role
Pollinator, Herbivore
AMNH Specimen Number
AMNH_IZC 00329555 and AMNH_IZC 00329556
Florida, U.S.