Moths in the Gracillariidae family are especially good at hide and seek, even as caterpillars … and that doesn’t take into account the fact they are so minuscule (less than a centimeter long).

That’s because they start life living inside leaves and as adults they look more like a flake of bark than an insect. 

That first bit might sound like crazy talk if you’ve never heard of it before. These micro moths are also known as leaf-miners. The larvae are flattened, and they develop in between the tissue layers of leaves in their host plant. Find a leaf that has squiggly markings on it: Those squiggles are the paths made by an insect larva. 

Older miner moth caterpillars have silk-producing organs. They use the webs to fold a leaf around them while they metamorphose into an adult. For this reason, they’re also called leaf-rollers. 

The adult moths, as you can see, are experts in camouflage. Their long, thin profile and woodsy coloring gives them a twig-worthy look. They blend in remarkably well among foliage. 

Gracillariidae’s long, thread-like antennae run all the way down the body, like Rapunzel’s braids. When I got too close to this one, it started whipping its antennae around, like it was trying to swat at my camera. 

You can tell which sub-family of Gracillariidae moth you’re looking at by the way they hold their legs and their stance, whether it’s triangular like this moth or more horizontal to the surface. This one pairs the two foremost legs together and the rear two legs are tucked against the body all the way to the fence.

I think this moth is in the Caloptilia genus, but I haven’t gotten confirmation yet. 

Stay curious!

See more of Karen’s work here.


BugGuide with images of the different “stances” of the subfamilies: Accessed 2/21/23.

Butterflies and moths family page: Accessed 2/21/23.