Buck Moths – Hemileuca maia or Hemileuca lucina?

On September 16, 2014, it rained.

It was not a hard rain, but a nice warm rain that still felt like summer.

I had a few minutes to spare between work and child care pick-up, so on my way home I took a quick stop at my favorite milkweed field.

I **always** see something of interest in this field. Always.

Thanks to the rain, though, I was not having much luck, and I turned around to head back to my car. There is always laundry I could be doing at home, you know?

But there…..tucked away under a big milkweed leaf, was a HUGE moth. Well, to my uneducated eye it was huge. I took pictures, a little nervous to touch him or try to encourage him to spread his wings, and headed home. This was in my pre-Peterson’s guide book days, but a quick Google search told me that I had a found a buck moth!

Buck moth, hemileuca lucina or maia, Pine Barrens NH

Buck moths are in the genus Hemileuca, and in the Northeast you will find either Hemileuca maia, the Eastern buck moth, or Hemileuca lucina, the New England buck moth.

They are ridiculously hard to tell apart.
Buck moth, hemileuca lucina, Pine Barrens NHI have a really long “wish list” on Amazon. Some of the items on that list are things I actually need or gift ideas for the kids.

Some of the things on that list are truly “wishes”….. like THIS.

Apparently they did not print enough copies, as the price ranges from $250 to $1,199!!! Yeesh.

Thanks to Google and Cornell, you can preview parts of it HERE, including the section on Hemileuca maia and Hemileuca lucina.

According to that book, the key differences between Hemileuca maia and Hemileuca lucina are as follows:

  • H. maia likes “scrub-oak pine sand barrens,” while H. lucina prefers wet meadows andfields (and rumor has it they quite like sweetfern.
  • H. maia is darker overall, with a narrower white band on the wings.
  • H. lucina has more transparent wings.
  • H. maia is slightly larger than H. lucina

Buck moth, hemileuca lucina, Pine BarrensSeems pretty straightforward, right? Well, if you look at this picture, it was taken in the Pine Barrens, but those wings are quite transparent. Sooo…. a New England buck moth a little off course?

Fast forward to September of 2015, when walking thru a random fen system….

Buck Moth hemileuca maia

He looks darker, right? So he’s H. maia. Oh wait, but he’s significantly smaller, so he must be H. lucina! Eh.

I actually tried VERY hard to collect this specimen. I was significantly hung over that day (horrible, horrible excuse! So sad, but so true), and I did not have my extension tubes for macro pics, nor did I have a collection jar. I carried him all the way back to the Jeep (no small feat, especially given the fact that I saw a really cool orb weaver that I HAD to take a few pictures of on the way back)…..put him a camera bag, which was the only bag that was available….

By the time we got home he had escaped. I was not a happy camper.

I wanted great macro pics.
I wanted a definite ID.

I guess I’ll have to wait until September of 2016!



the dirty girl at dirty botany
Head dirty girl at dirtybotany.com!
Bug worshiper.
Slime mold fanatic.
Macrophotographer in training.

Latest posts by Michelle (see all)

Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *