At home in pine woodlands, this is the yellow-edged pygarctia moth, whose larvae feed on plants with milky sap that is extremely toxic to humans, like spurge and dogbane. It was once common in the pine barrens of New Jersey, but yellow-edged pygarctia moths haven’t been seen there since the 1950s. The species is now found in the southeastern U.S.; its range has been both fragmented and contracted over time.

The reasons are many: a pathogenic bacterium—called Bt for short—was used widely to control certain pest moth species, but it also kills other moths and butterflies. Planting tree plantations in place of wild forests, intense real estate development, and changing fire management practices left the moths vulnerable to further decline.

Yellow-edged pygarctia moth
Pygarctia abdominalis
About 1.2–1.6 inches (30–40 mm)
Vulnerable (natureserve)
Ecological Role
AMNH Specimen Number
AMNH_IZC 00368248
New Jersey, U.S.