What is this insect?
Wow, this is beautiful. I am so jealous you had a chance to spot this pretty moth. It is a native scarlet-bodied wasp moth, Cosmosoma myrodora. It is generally found only along the coastline of Georgia, throughout Florida and over to the coastline of Texas. Because of its striking adult coloration, including a bright red thorax and abdomen, and transparent wings patterned with black, this moth immediately stands out in Florida landscapes.
Larval feeding is restricted to two native plants in the genus Mikania, family Asteraceae. The scarlet-bodied wasp moth completes its life cycle in 50 to 60 days. Development times for larva and pupa are 7 days and 11 days, respectively (Castillo 2012). Locally, the larvae feed on the native climbing hemp vine (Mikania scandens).
Adult males of the scarlet-bodied wasp moth feed on dog fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium). The male eats the dog fennel to obtain an important alkaloid. The alkaloid from the dog fennel is passed on to the female during mating. The female will then pass this same alkaloid to the eggs. The alkaloid helps prevent the eggs from being parasitized by predators. Nature never ceases to amaze me. Be sure to read the publication from the University of Florida’s Entomology Department (Featured Creatures) – the mating process is interesting. http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/BFLY/MOTH2/scarlet_bodied_wasp_moth.html