common oak moth

(Phoberia atomaris)

common oak moth
Photo by Greg Watson
  Hodges #


Conservation Status
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNR - Unranked

SNR - Unranked


not listed


Common oak moth is a medium-sized, early season, graphic owlet moth. It occurs in the United States and southern Canada east of the Great Plains. Adults are found from March to May in woodlands and at forest edges.

Adults are 1116 to (18 to 23 mm) in length and have a wingspan of about 1½ (38 mm). Moth size is sometimes given in terms of forewing length, which on this moth is to 1116 (17 to 18 mm).

The forewing background color is variable, from pale grayish-tan to brown. From the wing base to the tip there is a basal line, an antemedial (AM) line, a median line, a postmedial (PM) line, a subterminal (ST) line, and a terminal line. The AM line is a dark band bordered below with a thin pale line. The median line is a diffuse dark band. The PM line is pale and thin. The ST line is jagged, pale, and thin, but is often indistinct. The area between the PM and ST lines forms a dark band. The terminal line is represented by a row of dark spots between the veins. This may be the feature that gives the moth its species epithet atomaris, which means “with minute dots or points.” The kidney-shaped spot (reniform spot) in the rear half of the median area has a pale border above and is variably filled with dark scales. It sometimes appears as two separate spots.

The caterpillar is up to 1916 (4 cm) long, brown, and patterned with several pale to deep chocolate brown longitudinal stripes. The middle (middorsal) stripe is dark, bordered on each side by a wavy pale line that sometimes breaks the middorsal line into a row of diamond-shaped spots. A black stripe on each upper side (subdorsal) is broken into a series of irregular spots. On the sides of the abdomen there is a dark band that includes the breathing pores (spiracles). The leg-like structure (proleg) on the fourth abdominal segment (A4) is half as large as those on A5 and A6, and the proleg on A3 is half as large as the one on A4.




Total length: 1116 to (18 to 23 mm)

Wingspan: about 1½ (38 mm)

Forewing length: to 1116 (17 to 18 mm)


Similar Species


Woodlands and forest edges




One generation per year: March to May




The larvae feed on leaves at night and are seldom seen.

Adults are active at night and will come to lights. The wings are held flat when at rest.


Life Cycle




Larva Hosts




Adult Food




Distribution Map



4, 21, 24, 29, 30, 75, 82, 83.







Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)  


Noctuoidea (owlet moths and allies)  


Erebidae (underwing, tiger, tussock, and allied moths)  


Erebinae (underwings, zales, and related owlets)  


Melipotini (graphic owlets)  





Lyssia orthosiodes

Phoberia orthosiodes

Poaphila ingenua

Poaphila porrigens


Common Names


common oak moth











A fleshy structure on the abdomen of some insect larvae that functions as a leg, but lacks the five segments of a true insect leg.



A small opening on the surface of an insect through which the insect breathes.






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Greg Watson

    common oak moth   common oak moth  








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Other Videos
  Common Oak Moth (Phoberia atomaris)
Carl Barrentine

May 18, 2013

This Common Oak Moth (Phoberia atomaris) was collected at Fisher, Minnesota (18 May 2013).

  Common Oak Moth (Phoberia atomaris)
Carl Barrentine

May 28, 2013

This Common Oak Moth (Phoberia atomaris) preens, parades, then flies for the videographer. Photographed at the Turtle River State Park, North Dakota (28 May 2013).

  Common Oak Moth (Erebidae: Phoberia atomaris)
Carl Barrentine

Apr 29, 2011

Photographed at Fisher, Minnesota (28 April 2011). Thank you to Jan Metlevski (@ for confirming the identity of this specimen!




Visitor Sightings

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  Greg Watson

Location: Great River Bluff State Park

common oak moth







Created: 5/18/2023

Last Updated:

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