How often do people find translucent moth specimens like this in the wild?

Every once in a while, I find pictures of a weird looking moth that does not have the normal characteristics typically used to diagnose the species/genus/family. Something like this: by @chloejreid

The main issue is that the forewings are completely translucent and bare, i.e. they do not have the insect version of hair called setae. While this made the moth hard to ID, this does allow people to see the underlying veins of the wings in exquisite detail. This reminded me of the topic that I started yesterday, Help with understanding Entomological terms, where I found a book talking about wing veins like M2 and R1+2.

How often do people find moths with their wings being translucent and showing the underlying wing veins? Do you think this picture would be good for potential educational use in identifying the veins of the genus Biston?

This is just a very old and worn specimen. Nothing terribly remarkable in my opinion.


That’s quite a beat-up moth! Moths and other insects can lose their setae as they rub up against things, and wing scales come off especially easily in my experience. I held this sphinx moth in my cupped hands for about a minute as my friends looked for something to put it in, and its frantic flapping rubbed off the pattern on the wing tips. When I was a kid, I was under the impression that a butterfly or moth that lost its scales would no longer be able to fly, and I’m glad to know now that that’s not the case. As different example, here’s an old, late-season bumblebee I found which was nearly bald!

A photo like the one you posted certainly makes the structure of the wings very clear.


Yep, as other’s have mentioned here, this is just a very worn moth. Scales are easy to come off so when they fly about and bash against vegetation they evidently lose their scales bit by bit.

Bright side as you said is the venation structure becomes much clearer, but downside is the scales have been rubbed off so its hard to tell the distinguishing patterns. If you think this picture serves as a good case study for your learning by all means use it.

Side note 1: That moth certainly screams Biston to me too. In HK we have a different species, B. suppressaria.
Side note 2: Several moth species actually have hyaline/transparent wings, making venation and wing patterns both very very clear.