Stinging Rose Caterpillar Moth

Parasa indetermina (Boisduval, 1832)

Parasa indetermina (Stinging Rose Caterpillar Moth)
Jim Vargo

Insecta (Insects)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Apparently Secure globally - Uncommon in the world but not rare; usually widespread, but may be rare in some parts of its range; possibly some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors.


Did you know?

Stinging rose caterpillar moth larvae have detachable spines that contain toxins to ward off predators. These toxins can irritate human skin when contact is made with the spines.

State Ranking Justification

This species was found on Long Island in Suffolk County in 2007. There are historical New York records that need further investigation, one apparently from Staten Island. Covell (1984) considers this species to be uncommon.

Short-term Trends

The short-term trend is unknown for this species. However, it was considered possibly extirpated from New York until it was documented in 2007 at a site on Long Island.

Long-term Trends

The long-term trend for this species are unknown. Covell (1984) stated that the species is uncommon, but information for New York is sparse.

Conservation and Management


Known threats include habitat loss due to development and fire suppression in some habitats, although the threat of development for the remaining habitat on Long Island may be low. The suppression of fires in barrens and other dry places could cause a loss of habitat for the species and therefore a drop in population size. Conversely, a fire affecting an entire occurrence could eliminate all life stages that are present.
This species is attracted to artificial lighting. Artificial lighting can: increase predation risk, disrupt behaviors such as feeding, flight, and reproduction, and interfere with dispersal between habitat patches. In addition, many individuals die near the light source. It is not known if the impact of artificial lighting is severe, but the impact is likely greater for small, isolated populations (Schweitzer et al. 2011).
Another potential threat is persistent use of biocides such as those used to control spongy moths (Bess 2005).

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

The best management strategy for this species is the management of the natural community or habitat where it occurs. Historically, fire has played a role in maintaining maritime grasslands. The entire occupied habitat for a population should not be burned in a single year. For example, in places where prescribed burning is used, refugia (unburned areas) are needed for many species to ensure that any life stage can survive a fire. Schweitzer et al. (2011) suggests waiting five years before burning a unit again to give the lepidopteran population a chance to recolonize and increase local populations to withstand another fire. It may also be beneficial to know the locations of rare lepidoptereans since there's a chance of losing localized populations if there are no individuals at the area set aside as refugia (Schweitzer et al. 2011).

In addition, minimizing lighting to maintain dark sky conditions would be beneficial. When lighting is necessary, it's best to use lights that emit red or yellow light because insects are generally not attracted to those colors. However, many sodium lights, which emit yellow light, are so bright that they do attract some insects. The best lighting appears to be low pressure sodium lights which have little effect on flying insects (Schweitzer et al. 2011).

Insecticide use should be avoided when possible if rare species are present. When insecticide use cannot be avoided, careful planning along with consistent rare species monitoring, can result in successful eradication of the target species without eliminating rare species. A biocontrol alternative is Bacillus thuringiensis (Btk) for some target species, such as spongy moths. Sensitivity varies between species and it appears that most species are not sensitive to Btk approximately two weeks post-application. Since it appears that spiny rose caterpillar moths are sensitive to some biocontrols, it is important to try to time applications to minimize mortality for this species. There are two other spongy moth biocontrols that are currently unavailable, but appear to be very effective at eliminating spongy moths with little effect on non-target species: Gypchek (a viral preparation) and Entomophaga maimaiga (a fungus).



Stinging rose caterpillar moths are generally found in sandy, pine-oak savannahs of the southern Atlantic Coastal Plain (Bess 2005). The extant occurrence in New York was found at the border of two natural community types: maritime dunes and maritime grassland. Larvae have been documented to feed on: apple, dogwood, hickory, maples, oaks, poplars, and rose bushes.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Maritime dunes* (guide)
    A community dominated by grasses and low shrubs that occurs on active and stabilized dunes along the Atlantic coast. The composition and structure of the vegetation is variable depending on stability of the dunes, amounts of sand deposition and erosion, and distance from the ocean.
  • Maritime grassland* (guide)
    A grassland community that occurs on rolling outwash plains of the glaciated portion of the Atlantic coastal plain, near the ocean and within the influence of offshore winds and salt spray.

* probable association but not confirmed.


New York State Distribution

New York is at the northern limit of this species' range. There is a single extant location in Suffolk County.

Global Distribution

The range for stinging rose caterpillar moth extends from New York to Florida and west to Missouri and Texas.

Best Places to See

  • Hither Hills State Park (Suffolk County)

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

Stinging rose caterpillar moth is approximately 2.3 to 3 cm. The forewing is brown with a large green patch and rounded outer edge. The terminal border has a dark patch in the light brown outer margin. The yellowish hindwing has a narrow brown border (Covell 1984). Eggs are laid along stems or on leaves. Larvae are less than one inch in length and are brilliantly colored with blue, orange, and white stripes. Six pairs of large tubercles are along the dorsal surface. These tubercles are covered with hollow spines with detachable tips. The tips contain toxins that can irritate skin. There is a additional row of spines along the sides of the body (Bess 2005).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

Adult or larva.


Larvae have been documented to feed on: apple, dogwood, hickory, maples, oaks, poplars, and rose bushes.

Best Time to See

Throughout most of this species range, adults can be found from June to July. Larvae feed throughout the summer and into the fall (Bess 2005).

  • Present
  • Active

The time of year you would expect to find Stinging Rose Caterpillar Moth present and active in New York.

Similar Species

  • Smaller Parasa (Parasa chloris)
    Stinging rose caterpillar moth is larger than smaller Parasa. In addition, the green patch located on the forewing is larger on the stinging rose caterpillar moth.

Stinging Rose Caterpillar Moth Images


Stinging Rose Caterpillar Moth
Parasa indetermina (Boisduval, 1832)

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Arthropoda (Mandibulates)
      • Class Insecta (Insects)
        • Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies, Skippers, and Moths)
          • Family Limacodidae

Additional Resources


Bess, James. 2005. Conservation assessment for the stinging rose caterpillar (Parasa indetermina Biosduval). USDA Forest Service, Eastern Region.

Covell, Charles V. 1984. A field guide to the moths of eastern North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

NatureServe. 2011. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available (Accessed: April 17, 2012 ).

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Schweitzer, D.F., M.C. Minno, and D.L. Wagner. 2011. Rare, Declining, and Poorly Known Butterflies and Moths (Lepidoptera) of Forests and Woodlands in the Eastern United States. USFS Technology Transter Bulletin, FHTET-2009-02.

Schweitzer, Dale F. 1998. Rare, potentially rare, and historic macrolepidoptera for Long Island, New York: A suggested inventory list.


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: June 26, 2012

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. Online Conservation Guide for Parasa indetermina. Available from: Accessed September 26, 2023.