Many types of moths are brown. Small and large brown moths can be found in North America.
They can be established species or new types of moths from other parts of the world.
Almost all US states host brown moths as they feed on the leaves of common trees, flowers, fruits, and plants.
Brown moths come in different sizes. Their wingspan ranges from 10mm to more than 100mm depending on the species.
Many types of moths have brown coloring for camouflaging purposes, mainly to resemble dead leaves and to avoid predation.
Some of these species are also known for having brown or partially brown larvae which may not be easy to spot by predators.
Here are some of the typical brown moths you can encounter in North America.
Table of Contents
1. Polyphemus Moth
Polyphemus Moths (Antheraea polyphemus) are some of the most representative types of brown moths.
The species is marked by brown coloring across the forewings and the hindwings.
Multiple types of host trees native to North America make this species widely distributed.
American elm and willow are just some of the trees this species lays eggs on. As adult moths, the eggs of the Polyphemus Moth are also brown.
Up to 2 broods of the species are seen per year in the spring and in the summer.
The emerged green caterpillar of the species also shows partial brown coloring behind the head.
2. Banded Tussock Moth
One of the most common brown moths is The Banded Tussock Moth (Halysidota tessellaris).
Dark brown and tan colors are specific to its forewings which show contrasting bands.
This is also a species that is partly brown as a caterpillar which may impact various host trees across North America.
Early Banded Tussock Moth broods tend to have the most detrimental impact on the host trees, but it’s generally not a species that leads to defoliation.
Oak and hackberry leaves are some of the most consumed leaves of the species.
A growing impact on hazel has also been recorded with the species. As with many other brown moths, it may also settle on willow.
3. Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth
Dark brown is characteristic of the Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth (Malacosoma americana).
This is a species that has a brown nuance closer to black and a couple of white stripes on its forewings.
Brown nuances are also specific to the multicolored Eastern Tent Caterpillar which also shows blue coloring.
The caterpillars of the species show unique growing patterns. They may overwinter in eggs as caterpillars before eating their way out in the spring.
Caterpillars of the species are always seen in areas of their host trees with plenty of light.
4. Spongy Moth
Spongy Moths (Lymantria dispar) are also known as Gypsy Moths across North America.
This is a species with various shades of brown. Dark brown is more specific to its forewings while light brown is specific to its hindwings.
Moths of this genus are seen as one of the most invasive species in North America and in the world.
Various types of trees can be killed over a period of a few years by these moths. Returning species may kill even the largest coniferous host trees.
Some biological control measures have been introduced against the widespread Spongy Moth.
Wasps and some types of flies eat their eggs, limiting their possible invasion risks across North American woodlands.
5. Celery Leaftier Moth
Dark brown, red-brown, and light brown are all nuances specific to the forewings of the Celerty Leaftier Moth (Udea rubigalis).
This is a common species that has elongated mouthparts which may make it look as if having a snout.
These types of moths are known to have caterpillars that damage the leaves of their host plants.
Skeletonization is possible with smaller leaf damages turning them brown.
Pyrethrin spray is often used against these moths and their caterpillars.
6. Forest Tent Caterpillar Moth
Brown coloring is specific to the Forest Tent Caterpillar Moth (Malacosoma disstria). This species is even believed to have the ability to distinguish brown colors.
Males of the species often fly around brown trees or leaves, thinking they are females ready to mate with.
The colorful caterpillars of the species are black, but they also show blue and brown coloring.
Identifying the hosts of this species is possible based on silk threads. These silk threads are used by caterpillars as means of escape when they can drop to the ground if threatened.
7. White-speck Moth
Light brown is specific to the forewings of the White-speck Moth (Mythimna unipuncta).
Tan-to-white coloring is seen across its hindwings. While brown is mostly seen on its forewings, it can also be seen on the edges of the hindwings.
Its body is partly gray and partly brown as well.
The late instar caterpillar and the pupa of the White-speck moth are also brown.
Most importantly, the species is one of the important pests around the US. They can eat the leaves of carrots, sugarcane, and cabbage.
Cover crops are also impacted by the caterpillars of the moth.
The adult moth isn’t interested in eating leaves as it prefers fruit and plant nectar.
8. Large Maple Spanworm Moth
Dark brown uniform coloring covers the forewings of the Large Maple Spanworm Moth (Prochoerodes lineola).
The tip of the forewings and the head of the species is dark yellow to brown.
This species is active through the summer until September-October.
While not the biggest threat to plants or trees, its caterpillars feed on some of the most important trees in North America.
The caterpillars eat the leaves of oak and birch. Fruits are also impacted by the species which is also known to eat blueberries and other berries.
Large Maple Spanworm Moths are also known to be among the few species that feed on different types of wild geranium flowers.
9. White-dotted Prominent
A light brown nuance is specific to the wings and the body of the White-dotted Prominent (Nadata gibbosa).
This is a larger species of moth with an expected wingspan of up to 2 inches.
White-dotted Prominent moths are native to various North American states where they inhabit snow forests or high-elevation forests.
They have a constant presence in the East, down to Florida.
Active at night, the species has vividly colored caterpillars that aren’t brown.
The White-dotted Prominent Caterpillar has uniform green coloring with lateral yellow stripes.
Its caterpillars feed on tree leaves that grow at high elevations, such as those of oak.
10. Hickory Tussock Moth
Hickory Tussock Moths (Lophocampa caryae) are one of the most feared species of North America as many see its caterpillars as venomous.
There’s no venom associated with the species, but they are toxic through the ingestion of toxins as caterpillars.
Hickory Tussock Moths have a yellow-brown color or a light brown color backed by white spots across the wings.
A lighter brown color, closer to yellow, is specific to the body of the species, just behind its head.
Spotting this species is not necessarily a good sign as they eat and skeletonize the leaves of multiple host trees.
Oak, elm, and ash are the most common trees its caterpillars feed on.
11. Common Idia Moth
Common Idia Moths (Idia aemula) are also known as The Waved Taby. This is a species that has dark brown wings contrasted by wavy light brown bands.
Light brown or yellow spots are further distinguishable on its wings.
Elongated mouthparts also make the species look unique, almost like having a snout.
Up to 3 generations per year are specific to The Common Idia Moth around the year.
This is a species that has atypical feeding habits and which may be spotted around woodlands.
Caterpillars of this species are known to feed on dead leaves as opposed to living leaves as most brown moths do.
12. Wedgling Moth
Wedgling Moths (Galgula partita) are some of the most atypical brown moths in North America.
They are atypical both through coloring and through their host plant choices.
A red to brown color is specific to the Wedgling Moth. This species has multiple gray nuances across its wings in the form of dots and bands as well. Its body is mostly dark brown.
With a long flight season, Wedgling Moths are active until November.
This is a species further known to live around forests. Its caterpillars feed on wood sorrels almost exclusively.
These are a type of acidic plant with pure white flowers.
13. Common Tan Wave
Dark brown and bright brown coloring is specific to The Common Tan Wave (Pleuroprucha insulsaria).
This species has wavy brown stripes across its forewings.
Common Tan Wave is native to the Eastern parts of North America as well as to parts of Eastern South America.
These brown moths make their appearance from April onwards.
Some of the most toxic types of wildflowers are hosts for the Common Tan Wave Caterpillar.
Nightshade and bedstraw are among its common hosts along with rare types of hosts such as chestnut and maize.
14. Corn Earworm Moth
Multiple brown nuances are spotted across the wings and the body of the Corn Earworm Moth (Helicoverpa zea).
This is a species that shows light brown colors on its wings and darker brown body nuances.
Its lower body shows the darkest brown nuances.
These types of moths represent a serious problem for corn crops.
Corn Earworm Moth Caterpillars feed on corn to a heavy extent. They invade crops where they eat both the leaves and the corn kernel.
Almost all caterpillars that feed on kernels create serious problems which require management.
These types of moths are also one of the migrating moth species of North America. They only fly and migrate at night.
15. Garden Tortrix
A multicolored appearance is also specific to the Garden Tortrix (Clepsis peritana).
This is a species that shows multiple brown nuances across its wings and its body. Light brown base colors are contrasted by dark brown bands and spots.
Its body and its head have light brown coloring.
Active until September, the species might sometimes be spotted in gardens. It’s here that its caterpillar feeds on the leaves of strawberries.
Other more common plant hosts of the species include mums and artichoke thistles.
Unlike other species, its caterpillars can feed both on the living and dead parts of its host plant.
16. Fall Armyworm Moth
Fall Armyworm Moths (Spodoptera frugiperda) are some of the most damaging types of brown moths in North America.
This is a species known for its impact on many crops such as cotton, corn, and tobacco.
Multiple brown colors are specific to the adult moth. Dark brown is seen on its forewings and body while its hindwings have an off-white to cream color.
Its caterpillars show some of the most destructive habits as they can even turn cannibalistic.
Late instar Fall Armyworm Moth Caterpillars eat newly-emerged caterpillars of their species.
As they mature, the caterpillars also have a body dominated by brown nuances across the dorsal area.
17. Virginia Creeper Sphinx
This type of moth (Darapsa myron) is sometimes found in gardens as it can feed on fruits such as grapes.
Females have a dark brown color with darker brown marks along their wings and on the body.
Males are known for being dominated by gray to silver colors with reduced brown areas on the wings.
Atypical purple caterpillar coloring is also noted for this species.
Destructive feeding habits are tied to the Virginia Creeper Sphinx. These include feeding on grapes but the species may also feed on other vines such as Virginia Creeper, another type of plant in the vine family.
This species has widespread US distribution from Ohio in the North to Texas in its Southern range limit.
18. Faint-spotted Palthis Moth
Brown and dark brown colors are specific to the Fain-spotted Palthis Moth (Palthis asopialis).
While not a serious pest, the moth may be found on different crops and it may eat the leaves of deciduous trees such as oaks.
Corn is one of the crops the specie is seen on, together with bean crops in the Northeastern parts of the US.
Its presence is higher in the Northeast but it has been confirmed further South in Florida as well.
It has a very long flight season that starts in January with up to 3 broods per year when it lives in the Southeastern parts of the US.
19. Bicolored Sallow
The widespread Bicolored Sallow (Sunira bicolorago) is one of the brown moths of North America that appears late in the season.
Moths of this genus make their appearance in August in the Northeastern territories and in September in the Southern states.
It remains active until the end of the year.
A nocturnal species, this moth is characterized by brown and black coloring.
Its upper forewings have an amber-brown color while the lower forewings are dark brown or black.
The species may be seen in 2 broods per year, particularly in Southeastern parts of the US.
Its presence isn’t specific to Florida as the species prefers cooler climates.
20. Canadian Melanolophia Moth
One of the most common species in North America is the Canadian Melanolophia Moth (Melanolophia canadaria).
Mottled gray and brown colors are specific to its wings. Brown sections tend to be more visible around the upper wings as the inner sections are mostly gray.
Much of its appearance is marked by camouflaging coloring evolution which means this is a species that looks like dead leaves.
Elm, oak, and maple are among the woodlands and the trees that attract these moths and their caterpillars.
The species is also known for having a longer wingspan compared to other brown moths as it may measure up to 36mm.
It looks similar to a dead leaf when it rests with its wings spread out.
21. Oblique-banded Leafroller Moth
The Oblique-banded Leafroller Moth (Choristoneura rosaceana) is one of the species of brown moths native to the US but also found elsewhere.
This species has light brown coloring and it’s one of the smallest types of moths that can be a garden pest.
Caterpillars of the species may feed on flowers such as those of the rose family in gardens.
They prefer to feed on tree leaves. Damages to fruits are also considerable which means preventive measures are needed against this bi-annual species.
There’s one brood in the spring and early summer with a second brood appearing in late July and August.
This brown moth has green caterpillars with dark brown heads.
22. Curved-toothed Geometer Moth
The size of the moth stands out immediately as the Curved-toothed Geometer Moth (Eutrapela clemataria) grows to a wingspan of over 50mm.
Multiple shades of dark brown are specific to the species. Almost uniform coloring is seen across its wings.
This species appears similar to dead leaves which helps it avoid common moth predators.
Ash and birch are some of the most common types of hosts of the species.
Its flight season lasts until August and is generally split into 2 broods per year.
The species has a constant presence from Southern Canada to parts of Texas.
23. Waterlily Leafcutter Moth
Dark brown forewings and light brown hindwings are seen on the Waterlily Leafcutter Moth (Elophila obliteralis).
This species also shows a dark brown body.
Highly invasive pest status is tied to this type of moth. Waterlily Leafcutter Moths have a detrimental role for aquatic plants in ponds and small lakes.
Most of these mots are spotted around nurseries.
They eat entire leaves of various aquatic plants such as water lilies. Their role is not entirely detrimental as they can also eat invasive plants in ponds.
Still, they can eat a wide range of aquatic plants, essentially killing them as they emerge from caterpillars.
24. Spotted Tussock Moth
Brown is the main color of the Spotted Tussock Moth (Lophocampa maculata). This species has light brown coloring across its body.
The forewings of the moth are also mostly brown, with white spots from the center to the edges.
Its hindwings are mostly white.
Poplar and willow are their ideal host tree leaves.
The caterpillar of the species has a unique look that inspires its name. While not as brown as the adults, the Spotted Tussock Moth Caterpillar has a hairy black and yellow body.
25. Garden Webworm Moth
Various plants can be destroyed by the Garden Webworm Moth (Achyra rantalis).
Its caterpillars feed on the leaves of fruit trees, legumes, and ornamental plants in gardens and on pastures.
The adult moth is one of the light brown species of North America, with a dual presence in The US and Canada.
This species is widespread around local gardens where the caterpillars feed on almost all types of plants.
Unlike the light brown-yellow adult, the caterpillar has a green body with black spots with only its head having a dark brown color.
26. Dark-spotted Palthis Moth
This species (Palthis angulalis) is known for resembling a dead leaf. Its elongated mouthparts make it look like the mouth has a long snout.
Light brown to tan coloring is mostly specific to this species. Its wings also show distinct dark brown stripes.
The species has the same brown and tan nuances on the dorsal and on the ventral side of the wings.
An Eastern North America presence is specific to this species which flies twice per year.
Shrubs and trees in woodlands are the main hosts of the Dark-spotted Palthis Moth Caterpillar.
Goldenrod and scrub oak are among its favorites.
27. Genista Broom Moth
Brown is specific to the Genista Broom Moth (Uresiphita reversalis) across its multiple life stages.
This is a species that is known for its general capacity to mimic dead leaves as it features dark brown wings and similar body coloring.
Spotted in the summer around San Francisco, this is also a species that can overwinter in a pupal stage.
Brown coloring is also specific to the caterpillar of the species.
Host plants of the caterpillars are diverse and they include various legumes as well as acacia and honeysuckle leaves.
28. Filbertworm Moth
Filbertworm Moths (Cydia latiferreana) are one of the rare types of brown moths in the Northwestern US territories.
A light brown color with metallic gold stripes is specific to the wings of this species, which is known as a local pest.
Hazelnut is one of the species most impacted by the Fibertworm Moth.
Its caterpillar can eat the nuts itself as well as the leaves of its host tree. Oak trees of multiple species are also highly impacted by the caterpillar of this moth.
August marks the time of the year when the species can be the most detrimental even if it can continue feeding up until October in warmer areas of the US.
29. Saddleback Caterpillar Moth
This species of moth (Acharia stimulea) is named after its colorful green saddle-like marking on the back of its caterpillar.
A brown color is specific to the caterpillar which is also contrasted by a green saddle with white margins.
Adult moths of the species have dark brown-red and gray coloring across the body and the wings.
These types of moths are mostly spotted in Eastern US and Eastern Canada territories.
Host species are diverse and include many types of plants that also grow in gardens. Blueberries and apples are among the common garden hosts of the species.
Oak and citruses are also common host choices for their brown and green caterpillars.
30. Walnut Caterpillar Moth
A constant presence in Southern US territories is attributed to the Walnut Caterpillar Moth (Datana integerrima).
Unique brown coloring with red undertones is specific to the adult moths of this species.
Red-brown colors are seen on its body and in its forewings.
Walnut Caterpillar Moths are also some of the largest moths in The US as they can reach a wingspan of up to 50mm.
This species is a pest of pecan and hickory, as well as other tall hardwood trees specific to North and Central America.
31. Tulip-tree Silkmoth
Despite not feeding as an adult, The Tulip-tree Silkmoth (Callosamia angulifera) is larger than most moths in North America.
It can reach the sizes of butterflies with a wingspan that can measure more than 100mm.
The species shows dark brown coloring on its inner wings and light brown coloring with black and white margins on its outer wings.
A common sight up until August, the species is seen in 2 broods per year from Northern to Southern states.
Adult moths don’t feed as they absorb all of their nutrients in their caterpillar stages.
The caterpillars of the species are a major pest to young tulip trees.
32. Western Tent Caterpillar Moth
This type of moth (Malacosoma californica) comes in both brown and white coloring. It’s a short-lived species that only survive up to a few days as adults don’t feed.
You can only see the Western Tent Caterpillar Moth in late summer, for a few days.
The females of the species lay eggs directly on trees where multiple caterpillars of the species emerge in tent-like structures.
While the caterpillars of the species grow together at first, they rarely defoliate their host trees.
33. Arched Hooktip Moth
Light brown covers the wings of the Arched Hooktop Moth (Drepana arcuata). This is a species known for its appearance that resembles dead leaves.
These types of moths are known to build protective tents as caterpillars.
They also make different noises with their bodies which aim to attract caterpillars into the tent.
A common presence in North America, this is a species that remains active until June-July.
North American birch is the main host tree of the species. These trees grow along the West Coast of the US.
34. Black-dotted Ruddy Moth
Light brown or dark brown colors are specific to the Black-dotted Ruddy Moth (Ilexia intractata).
This is a moth dominated by brown coloring with faint black or white marks on the forewings.
Its body typically has the same brown nuance as the wings.
Native to the Eastern parts of North America, this species also has distinct hosts, found in the wilderness and in gardens.
American Holly is one of its favorite hosts, a species that can also be found in parks and gardens.
35. Indian-Meal Moth
Dark brown, light brown, and white are the main colors of the species (Plodia interpunctella).
Indian-Meal Moths are some of the most invasive species when it comes to feeding on cotton-made clothes.
These moths are also found feeding on dry pet food and are a common sight indoors.
Brown and cream colors are specific to its wings. The upper and the lower parts of the forewings are brown while the central section is white to cream.
These types of moths can multiply and lay eggs in cotton clothes.
Neon green is the color of the Indian meal Moth larvae with only its head being dark brown.
36. Bent-lined Dart
Brown is the main color of the Bent-lined Dart moths (Choephora fungorum) across all of their life cycles.
This is a common species known for its light brown wings with dark brown spots.
Dark brown to black coloring is specific to the emerged adult moth.
Some moths also show red nuances in their brown base coloring.
This species is only seen late in the year as its flight season starts in September.
With an expected wingspan of up to 47mm, this is also one of the largest brown moths in the Northeastern United States.
37. American Lappet Moth
A common presence in The US and Canada, The American Lappet Moth (Phyllodesma americana) is a species that looks like dead brown leaves.
Its wings show a base brown color with a lighter brown section closer to the body and its head.
White or gray mottling is also specific to this moth that looks like a dead leaf with its camouflaging colors.
Some of the most common native trees of the continent are also its host plants. It lives and feeds on the leaves of birch, oak, or willow.
There’s only one generation of the species in Northern states such as Ohio which has a flight season that may reach the end of August.
38. Discolored Renia Moth
This species (Renia discoloralis) has elongated mouthparts and a dark brown color which it uses as camouflage.
Discolored Renia Moths are among the typical species that look like dead leaves but they also eat dead leaves, unlike most other moths.
This species is a US native with its range expanding North to New England. It doesn’t have a confirmed presence in Southeastern states such as Florida.
Discolored Renia Moths are among the smallest types of Erebidae moths, with a maximum wingspan of 40mm.
39. Dusky Herpetogramma Moth
Various types of tree leaves and tall grasses serve as ideal hosts and foods for the Dusky Herpetograma Moth (Herpetogramma phaeopteralis).
This is a species found around the world. It has a Southern and Southeastern distribution in the US.
Its wings are mostly dark brown around the edges and light brown on the central sections.
These types of moths have a short wingspan as they may only reach a length of 18mm.
Tropical and subtropical climates are preferred by the species.
40. Skiff Moth
Dark brown color and alight brown color combined to cover the forewings of the Skiff Moth (Prolimacodes badia).
This species has a lighter brown mid-section of the wings which contrasts its darker overall appearance.
Green base coloring with small brown dots is specific to the larvae of the Skiff Moth.
This species has different types of hosts such as oak and poplar.
The species is small as it has an average wingspan of 25-30mm.
41. Fractured Western Snout
The brown Fractured Western Snout moth (Diastictis fracturalis) is native to North and Central America.
California marks the US state with the highest presence of the species.
Light brown is the base color of its wings which is contrasted by multiple scattered large white marks with black borders.
The species lives in some of the warmest climates of the Southeast, including The Sonoran.
42. Gold-striped Leaftier Moth
A golden-brown color with tiny dark brown spots is specific to the Gold-striped Leaftier Moth (Machimia tentoriferella).
This species may also be spotted in a tan color and dark brown legs.
Northeastern US territories mark the area this species is most common.
Small populations are also noted on The West Coast as well as in Central and Southern America.
The larvae of the species are known to grow in leaves that are curled to hide.
Adult moths are some of the smallest brown moths with a maximum wingspan of just over 20mm.
43. Achemon Sphinx
This type of large moth (Eumorpha achemon) is one of the most important pests of vines such as grapes.
It has a long wingspan which may even measure more than 100mm.
A light brown base color is specific to the species. Some sections of these wings are white while others are black or even pink.
The body of the moth also features a light brown color as well as 2 black spots just behind its head.
Adult moths of this species are known to feed on various types of honeysuckle while its larvae feed on various vines such as peppervine and grapes.
Wild grapes are their typical host but they can also establish themselves in gardens, on cultivated grapes.
44. Crowned Slug Moth
Light brown colors cover the wings and the body of the Crowned Slug Moth (Isa textula).
This is a species that also has antennae and legs of the same nuance.
An atypical look is specific to the caterpillars of this species. Spiky green coloring with just a few brown sections is specific to the caterpillar of the species.
Crowned Slug Moths also lay shiny dark brown to black eggs.
Some of the preferred hosts of this species include fruit and hardwood trees. Basswood and American elm are among its first choices when it comes to laying eggs.
45. Suzuki’s Promalactis Moth
The wings of Suzuki’s Promalactis Moth (Promalactis suzukiella) are mostly brown. An amber-brown color is specific to its wings.
White stripes cover the wings of the species contrasting its dark appearance.
Its legs and antennae show a combination of white and black coloring.
This species has been first recorded less than 2 decades ago in the area of New York. It has since expanded to the Southern US states, along with its preferred hosts.
This species feeds on bitter berries and oak. Its presence is also specific to gardens with peaches.
A mild pest in gardens, the species is active early in the season, from spring to early fall.
46. Friendly Probole Moth
Friendly Probole Moths (Probole amicaria) are found in the eastern US states.
This is a species that is marked by mimicry appearance through all of its life stages.
Its caterpillars mimic twigs and are partly brown. Adults mimic dead leaves and have light brown central coloring and dark brown coloring on the edges of their wings.
This species also stands out by being one of the moths with both brown forewings and brown hindwings.
It may grow to reach a maximum wingspan of 35mm.
47. Batman Moth
One of the smallest types of brown moths in North America is Batman Moths (Coelostathma discopunctana).
This is a light brown species that shows red spots or dark brown red spots along its wings.
A short wingspan is specific to this species which may reach a maximum of 11mm wingspan.
Its range expands all across Eastern North America from Canada to Mexico.
48. Decorated Owlet
One of the typical brown moths in gardens is the Decorated Owlet (Pangrapta decoralis).
This is a species that feeds on different fruits such as blueberry and cranberry. Light brown coloring is specific to its wings, together with wavy dark brown bands.
Up to 3 generations of Decorated Owlets are seen each year. The species grows to a maximum wingspan of up to 28mm.
Decorated Owlets can be seen in gardens through the summer up until September.