Bug o’the Week – Oblique-banded Leafroller Moth

Bug o’the Week
by Kate Redmond

Oblique-banded Leafroller Moth

Greetings, BugFans,

The venerable (circa 1903) moth book that the BugLady grew up with – The Moth Book by W. J. Holland – included pictures of a huge number of moth species, all with wings outstretched, in pinned position.  Great for seeing all of the markings – not so great for showing the unique shapes and postures of many moths https://bugguide.net/node/view/889584/bgimage  https://bugguide.net/node/view/1307815/bgimage  https://bugguide.net/node/view/259944      https://bugguide.net/node/view/973408   https://bugguide.net/node/view/11941/bgimage   https://bugguide.net/node/view/427321/bgpage (the Peterson field guide portrays them as they perch).  Holland’s picture of today’s moth was a little odd.

Oblique-banded Leafrollers (OBLRs) are in the family Tortricidae (accent on the first and third syllables), sometimes called the Tortricid/tortrix, leaf roller, and leaf tier moths.  It’s a large group (10,000 species worldwide and 1,400 north of the Rio Grande) of small (wingspans of ½” to 1 ¼”), drab, bell/arrowhead-shaped moths, and even smaller caterpillars that are often green with dark heads.  Some species are agricultural pests (spruce budworm and a variety of apple-lovers), and a few species are used as biological controls to deal with unwanted plants.  Caterpillars of some Tortricid species bore into plant materials, and others feed on the exterior (and these caterpillars come equipped with a structure called an anal fork that allows them to flip their frass (bug poop) away from their bodies, so it won’t lead parasites or predators to them).  Some are generalist feeders and some limit their diets.  A few make galls.

OBLRs (Choristoneura rosaceana), aka Rosaceous Leaf Rollers, are a native species that lives throughout most of the US and into southern Canada (and that we have accidentally exported to other parts of the globe).  They’re habitat generalists, found from wetlands to woodlands to old fields to orchards.  The caterpillars, which are said to be the most common tortricid in North America, are hard to tell from related caterpillars, and when asked how to distinguish the notoriously variable adults from their relatives, a commentator in bugguide.net said, “Today I was asked how to separate species that look similar to Choristoneura rosaceana and thought I’d share my response here since it is commonly collected and frequently misIDed. The short answer is assume everything is C. rosaceana unless you have reason to believe otherwise. The longer answer is below and basically outlines my thought process.” 

There are no picky eaters here!  OBLM caterpillars feed on more than 80 species of plants, most, but not all of them, woody.  They’re especially fond of plants in the rose family, like cherry, apple, pear, chokecherry, raspberry, and peach, but they also eat maple, sumac, birch, honeysuckle, viburnum, oak, ash, buckthorn, willow, aspen, basswood, elm, pine, and more.  OBLRs are eaten by birds and a number of invertebrate predators, including some ladybugs.  Leaf rolling, leaf tying, and gall making benefit caterpillars that have lots of predators.

Because of its connection with commercial fruits, this is one well-studied insect; although much that is known about them is based on laboratory observations.

Courtship is driven by hormones and is formulaic– she “calls,” he responds, they sit head-to-head for a while, and things progress.  If she’s not interested, she leaves.  She deposits masses of wax-covered eggs (200 to 900, said one source) on the upper surfaces of host plants, and when the caterpillars hatch https://bugguide.net/node/view/1185427/bgimage, many disperse by spinning silk and taking off, like spiders, casting their fates to the winds (https://uwm.edu/field-station/bug-of-the-week/spider-flight/) – they bet the farm on avoiding aerial predators and landing on a host plant.    

There are two generations of OBLRs in Wisconsin, which works out to three waves of caterpillars.  OBLRs overwinter as partially-grown caterpillars, and when they emerge, they skeletonize the undersides of very new leaves or feed in the buds.  When the leaves get big enough, caterpillars make leaf shelters lined with silk https://bugguide.net/node/view/1039803/bgimage and later pupate in them.  The first crop of adults appears in June, and their eventual offspring https://bugguide.net/node/view/2336932/bgimage eat leaves and the surface of fruit https://bugguide.net/node/view/546919/bgimage.  The next adults are seen in late summer, and it’s their caterpillars that overwinter, in a hibernaculum that they spin between folded leaves, in twig crotches, under bud scales, or in bark, emerging as buds start to swell.  Depending on what time of the year they’re feeding, they cause the fruit to be pitted or deformed, and they may introduce rot that isn’t obvious until after harvest.  Mature and almost mature caterpillars do the most damage. 

ADDENDUM: The BugLady just read an interesting article in the New York Times about how scientists are noticing that fewer moths come in to light traps (previously the gold standard for capturing and censusing moths).  Why?  Fewer moths overall?  Not always – hormone traps (used by farmers to estimate numbers of crop pests) attract lots of them. 

Once upon a time, a contemporary of Charles Darwin’s asked him why moths are attracted to light (a topic that has attracted, in turn, a lot of scientists).  Darwin replied that “maybe it’s because lights are quite new and moths haven’t quite figured it out yet…. But you might expect that over time they will stop doing this.”  He may have hit the nail on the head. 

Avalon Owens, an entomologist at Harvard, explains, using corn earworms as an example: “It might be, as Darwin suggested, that evolution has removed moths with an attraction to light from the gene pool, so that today’s corn earworm moth is no longer as drawn to light.

But another explanation for the decline in light trap effectiveness might be that it’s a consequence of the world surrounding those light traps growing much brighter. With streetlights and spotlights and everything else lighting up the night, moths may not be noticing the light traps as much as they notice other glowing things.” 

Light pollution affects a lot of us – migrating birds, hatchling sea turtles, some fish, nocturnal predators, tree frogs, Monarch butterflies, fireflies – and people who just want to see the stars.

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

Bug o’the Week – Bugs without Bios XIX

Bug o’the Week
by Kate Redmond

Bugs without Bios XIX

Howdy, BugFans,

Bugs without bios – those humble (but worthy) bugs about whom little information is readily available.  Today’s bugs check those boxes as species, but they have something in common – their lifestyles are similar to those of close relatives who have already starred in their own BOTW.

The BugLady found this PREDACEOUS DIVING BEETLE (Hydacticus aruspex) (probably) in shallow water that was so plant-choked that the beetle had trouble submerging.  Diving beetles are competent swimmers, tucking their two front pairs of legs close to their body and stroking with powerful back legs.  When they submerge, they carry a film of air with them to breathe, stored under the hard, outer wing covers (elytra).  They can fly, too, though they mostly take to the air at night.

As both larvae and adults, Predaceous diving beetles are aquatic and carnivorous, dining on fellow aquatic invertebrates.  Larvae (called water tigers) grab their meals with curved mouthparts and inject digestive juices that soften the innards, making them easy to sip out (generic water tiger – https://bugguide.net/node/view/49848/bgimage).  They eat lots of mosquito larvae.  Adults grab their prey and tear pieces off.  Not for the faint of heart.   

Hydacticus aruspex (no common name) is one of five genus members in North America and is found across the continent.  It comes in both a striped and a non-striped form https://bugguide.net/node/view/296320/bgimage.  It overwinters as an adult, under the ice, and romance blossoms in spring.  For more information about Predaceous diving beetles, see https://uwm.edu/field-station/bug-of-the-week/predaceous-diving-beetle-revisited/

These spectacular OBLIQUE-WINGED KATYDIDS (probably) were climbing around on Arrow Arum in a wetland that the BugLady frequents.  Katydids are famous singers whose ventriloquistic calls may be heard day and night (though older ears may strain to hear them – test your hearing here https://www.listeningtoinsects.com/oblong-winged-katydid).  They “sing” via “stridulation” – friction – in their case, by rubbing the rigid edge of one forewing against a comb-like “file” on the other (the soft, second set of wings is only for flying, and they do that well).  They hear with slit-like tympana on their front legs.  Most Katydids are vegetarians, but a few species are predaceous.

Oblong-winged Katydids (Amblycorypha oblongifolia) are “False katydids” (here’s a True katydid https://bugguide.net/node/view/2207342/bgimage) in the Round-headed katydid genus.  They are found in woods, shrubs, and edges throughout the eastern US, often in “damp-lands,” often on brambles, roses, and goldenrods.  The dark, mottled triangle on the top of the male’s thorax is called the “stridulatory field” – a rough area that is rubbed to produce sound.  Oblong-winged katydids have a large stridulatory field. 

Katydids, both in color and in texture, are remarkably camouflaged – except when they’re not.  Here’s an awesome color wheel of katydids https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/amblycorypha_oblongifolia.htm

For more information about the large katydids (including the origin of their name), see https://uwm.edu/field-station/bug-of-the-week/katydid-rerun/.

The BugLady came across this cute little MOTH FLY (Clytocerus americanus) (probably) on a day that she couldn’t take an in-focus shot on a bet!  Fortunately, bugguide.net contributors did better https://bugguide.net/node/view/426325/bgimagehttps://bugguide.net/node/view/695589/bgimage.  Despite their name, Moth flies are moths, not flies or weird hybrids.  They are tiny (maybe 1/8”) and hairy, and are weak fliers, and until she saw this one, the only Moth flies she had ever seen were indoors, in the bathroom (where they earn another of their names – “drain flies”).  Species that live outside are, like this one was, often found near wetlands. 

There are only one or two species in the genus Clytocerus in North America, and they have strongly-patterned wings and very hairy antennae.  Not much is known about their habits.  According to Wikipedia, adult Clytocerus americanus feed on “fungal mycelia and various organisms which inhabit wet to moist environments. Larvae are assumed to be detritivores.”

Find out more about moth flies here https://uwm.edu/field-station/bug-of-the-week/moth-fly/

MASON WASP – This is what happens when the BugLady buys garden stakes!  After various small, solitary wasps populate the empty interiors with eggs, the BugLady can’t possibly stick them into the ground! 

As their name suggests, female Mason wasps use mud to construct chambers in preexisting holes to house both their eggs and the cache of small invertebrates that their their eventual larvae will eat. 

The Canadian Mason Wasp (Symmorphus canadensis) suspends an egg from the chamber roof or wall by a thread and then adds 20 or more moth or leaf mining beetle larvae before partitioning it off with a wall of mud and working on the next cell https://bugguide.net/node/view/509856/bgimage.  She leaves a “vestibule” at the end of the tunnel/plant stake between the final chamber and the door plug. 

Heather Holm, in her sensational Wasps: Their Biology, Diversity, and Role and Beneficial Insects and Pollinators of Native Plants, discusses the hunting strategy of genus members: “Symmorphus wasps hunt leaf beetle larvae (Chrysomela); these beetles have glands in their abdominal segments and thorax that emit pungent defensive compounds.  These compounds are derived from the plants that the larvae consume. ….. In addition to using visual cues to find their prey, it is likely that Symmorphus wasps use olfactory means to find the beetle larvae.  Symmorphus males have been observed lunging at Chrysomela larvae, mistaking the larvae for adult females [female mason wasps] that, after capturing and handling prey, smell of the offensive compounds.

Here are two previous BOTWs about mason wasps, each a different genus than the Canadian Mason wasp: https://uwm.edu/field-station/bug-of-the-week/bramble-mason-wasp/ and https://uwm.edu/field-station/bug-of-the-week/four-toothed-mason-wasp/.    

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

Bug o’the Week – Tobacco Budworm

Bug o’the Week
by Kate Redmond

Tobacco Budworm

Greetings, BugFans,

The BugLady photographed this handsome moth on her back porch rail last summer, and she was temporarily mystified when she identified it as a Tobacco budworm moth, because the nearest tobacco farm is probably more than 100 miles west of her.  Then she found an alternative common name – the Geranium budworm – and since she is the Geranium Queen, it made more sense (and it explained the frass on the bookshelves).

There are lots of moths that aren’t big enough or bad enough or beautiful enough to have been studied enough.  This isn’t one of them.  It gets University Extension Agents riled up throughout tobacco and cotton-growing areas in the southern half of its range.

Tobacco budworms (Chloridea virescens) (before 2013 they were Heliothis virescens) are native moths in the Owlet moth family Noctuidae.  They’re considered an eastern and southwestern species, but they’ve been spotted in Canada, across the vast majority of the lower 48 plus the Caribbean, and sporadically south of the Rio Grande.  They produce five or six broods annually in the South, but generally just one or two in the North, and they are too tender to overwinter here.  Moths seen in the northern parts of the US in the second half of summer may have overwintered in a greenhouse or a sheltered patio or in a potted plant that was brought inside in fall, or they may have drifted north from the southern part of their range. 

Adults have a wingspread of about one-to one-and-a-half inches and are somewhat variable in color.  Virescens means “being or becoming green” and while some are greenish https://bugguide.net/node/view/662023/bgimage, many Tobacco budworm moths are tan https://bugguide.net/node/view/1440535/bgimage.  The caterpillars’ color is also variable and, as David Wagner says in Caterpillars of Eastern North America, “Somehow the larvae end up matching the color of their foodplant.  The caterpillars found on red geraniums are shades of pink, those on ground cherry yellow, and so on.”  https://bugguide.net/node/view/1735907/bgimage (pink flowers make pink frass https://bugguide.net/node/view/32268/bgimage), https://bugguide.net/node/view/899588/bgimagehttps://bugguide.net/node/view/36749/bgimage.   

The first generation of larvae chew deeply into buds (scroll down https://extension.umn.edu/yard-and-garden-insects/tobacco-budworms) and the later broods feed on the flowers and seeds.  They prefer the reproductive tissues, but they’ll also eat leaves, leaf petioles and even stems, and the later generations cause the most damage to plants.  No picky eaters here – these are generalist feeders!  They especially like tobacco and cotton, but they eat other agricultural crops like soybeans, flax, squash, tomato, peanuts, peppers, lettuce, and alfalfa and other clovers,.  Garden flowers like roses, geraniums, morning glory, petunias, nicotiana, chrysanthemums, marigolds, snapdragons, zinnias, and verbenas are on the menu, and, as the bulletins say, so are “weeds” like beardtongue, cranesbill/wild geranium, dock, lupine, passion flower, ground cherry, and more (“weeds” – so judgy).  They’re not considered a pest here in God’s Country.     

They are eaten by a variety of insects and spiders, but where some of their predators are concerned, the caterpillars seem to have Super Powers.  According to Wikipedia, if a parasitic wasp named Cardiochiles nigripes approaches a caterpillar with the intention of laying an egg on it, a fluid oozes from the caterpillar’s pores “that causes C. nigriceps to become agitated and groom themselves, allowing the budworm to escape. C. nigriceps also avoid budworms painted with this exudate. It is hypothesized that this exudate may function by overloading the wasp’s sensory receptors.”  The tachinid fly Winthemia rufopicta may be successful at laying eggs on the exterior of a tobacco budworm caterpillar, “but upon hatching and trying to penetrate its host, the caterpillars react by biting, crushing, puncturing, or trying to eat the parasitoid eggs.  This kills off many of the maggots” (Wikipedia).  Plus (says Wagner) “My colleague Scott Smedley and his students recently discovered that the caterpillars manage to transfer the glandular defensive secretions of their foodplants onto their own setae [hairs], and in doing so accrue chemical protection from ants and other natural enemies.”

They court with pheromones – she releases chemicals (perfumes) into the air, but she will not produce them unless she has been in contact with a potential host plant, and a place to lay her eggs is assured.  He reads her signals with receptors on his antennae and responds, and when she picks up his signal, she stops producing hers.  Males court with pheromones produced by glands in structures called hair pencils, which pop out of their abdomen.  The chemicals he produces are “twofers” – they send a “back-off” message to other males, and a “come hither” message to females.  If she approves of his scent, it’s “game on.”  The odor has both a stimulating and tranquilizing effect on her. 

She lays her eggs https://bugguide.net/node/view/699644/bgimage (usually 300 to 500 of them, but as many as 1,500) on buds, blossoms and leaves in the upper parts of plants.  Research suggests that she picks as a host the same species of plant that she grew up on.  The larvae hatch and, if they’re not already there, head for the tips of the plant.  Larvae grow faster at warmer temperatures, and when they are mature, they pupate a few inches under the soil https://bugguide.net/node/view/587565/bgimage

Two big photo references – one to Wisconsin moths https://www.butterflyidentification.org/moths-by-state-listing.php?reach=Wisconsin, and the other a giant collection of caterpillar pictures by wildlife photographer Tom Murray (Wisconsin shares many moth species with New York) https://pbase.com/tmurray74/moth_caterpillars.

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

Bug o’the Week – Moths – Four Very Short Stories

Bug o’the Week
by Kate Redmond

Moths – Four Very Short Stories

Greetings, BugFans,

Everybody likes butterflies (the BugLady would not like to meet the person who dislikes butterflies).  But, in the order Lepidoptera, butterflies are just the tip of the iceberg – the heavy lifting is done by moths.  There are in the neighborhood of 180,000 species of Lepidoptera worldwide (“10% of the total described species of living organisms,” says Wikipedia), and about nine-tenths of them are moths.  Only around 700 of North America’s 12,000 species of Lepidoptera are butterflies.

Moths often languish in the BugLady’s picture files because: A) They can be tough to identify; and B) Most are not notorious enough to have drawn much attention to themselves, so their biographies are hard to find and are more like short stories.

Three of today’s four moths are in the family Geometridae – the “earth-measurers” or “loopers” – so-named for the gait of their caterpillars, the inchworms.  They are slim, well-camouflaged caterpillars with long abdominal segments, but with fewer and reduced abdominal prolegs (the fleshy, unjointed “helper” legs – the six real legs are on the thorax).  Having one set of prolegs toward the front of the abdomen and one set at the rear leaves them with no visible means of support in the middle, so they “inch” – move their front end forward and then hike the rear end up to follow it, measuring the earth as they go.  

About the Geometrids, Wagner, in Caterpillars of Eastern North America, says “Whether measured in terms of abundance or biomass, loopers are among the most important forest lepidopterans in Eastern North America.  They are an especially important component of the spring caterpillar fauna of deciduous forests, where they are a staple in the diets of many forest-nesting birds.” 

The NORTHERN PETROPHORA MOTH(Petrophora subaequaria)

The BugLady found this pretty moth in May at a small, acid bog that she frequents.  The Northern Petrophora moth is a Northeastern moth that is close to the west edge of its range in Wisconsin.  Caterpillars https://bugguide.net/node/view/1503546/bgimage are abroad throughout summer and are oligophagous (they feed on a variety of related plants) – look for them on ferns, including bracken fern.  The caterpillars have been described as “strong jumpers.”  

The COMMON METARRANTHIS (Metarranthis hypochraria)

The caterpillars feed in early summer on a number of trees and shrubs, especially in the genus Prunus (cherries, apples, and plums) and are stick mimics, but mature caterpillars are hard to find.  Wagner speculates that they may move down from the leaves onto the trunk or into the litter by day.  He also says that (of course) “the taxonomy of the group is in need of review.”  Many adults in this genus fly during the day and they often perch on the ground, cryptic against the fallen leaves.     

The THREE-SPOTTED FILLIP (Heterophleps triguttaria)

The BugLady found this small (3/4” wingspan), distinctly-marked moth at the same bog as the Petrophora moth.  It’s found throughout the spring and summer in wet woodlands and marshes from Colorado to Ontario to Quebec to North Carolina, and according to the “Moths of North Carolina” page on the NC Parks website, the majority of its other genus members live in India and China. 

It’s monophagous – it had long been thought that the caterpillar host plant was maple, but caterpillars that were fed maple leaves in the lab wouldn’t eat them, and it turned out that the caterpillars host is Clearweed, a kind of nettle. 

So – what is a “fillip?”  There are several, very diverse meanings, but an archaic one seems to fit in this context, “a movement made by bending the last joint of the finger against the thumb and suddenly releasing it; a flick of the finger.”  “To propel a small object with a flick of the finger.”  “Fillip is considered a phonetic imitation of the sharp release of a curled-up finger aimed to strike something.”  And it turns out that, according to the NC Parks website, “When disturbed the larvae form a tight coil and are known to hurl their frass pellets.”  

And the MORBID OWLET (Chytolita morbidalis

The Morbid Owlet is in the family Erebidae and the subfamily Herminiinae, the litter moths, some of whose caterpillars feed on live leaves, while others feed on algae, lichens, fungi, dung, decomposing vegetation or insects, organic stuff they find around animal nests.  Wagner describes them as lethargic caterpillars that avoid the light and that play dead when bothered.  Bugguide.net says that “morbidalis” comes from “morbus,” meaning “disease” and probably refers to the “sickly pale color” of the moth.  The “snout” protruding from the head is formed by the “labial palps,” which have a sensory function in feeding.

Morbid Owlet caterpillars eat dead leaves (they’re detritivores) and low vegetation like dandelions.  Wagner says that “they flatten the rear of the body in a manner that suggests a false head.”

Using her Peterson Field Guide to the Moths of Northeastern North America, the BugLady originally ID’d this moth as a Stone-winged Owlet Moth (Chytolita petrealis), but when she Googled it, it kept coming up as the Morbid Owlet (Chytolita morbidalis).  It appears that a recent taxonomic review of the genus (done after her moth book was published) lists Chytolita petrealis as a synonym of Chytolita morbidalis – basically, same species – and now the only member of its genus north of the Rio Grande.  The Stone-winged Owlet Moth form is said to be smaller and darker than the Morbid Owlet form.  Bugguide.net, whose account must also have been written before the review, lists the habitat of the Morbid Owlet as “deciduous woods and edges; generally drier or less boggy habitat than Chytolita petrealis.”   

Not so fast, says the North Carolina Parks Chytolita petrealis page.  “Chytolita petrealis is currently treated by some authorities to be a synonym of morbidalis, following determination that the type of petrealis was a morbidalis. Prior to that realization, however, the name petrealis had been applied to a distinct and much rarer species in the Southeast. The authors who sunk petrealis did not realize this so our petrealis has no name at the moment. To make things more complicated, there is another undescribed thing like it from the mountains (2-3 specimens known) whereas the petrealis that has been most widely recognized is present primarily in the Coastal Plain.”  And, it goes on to say “The majority of our records come from swamp and floodplain forests, forested shorelines, as well as peatlands and other wet forests.” 

The BugLady found it in that same acid bog as the Petrophora and the Fillip moths.  

Fun Fact about the Northern Petrophora Moth:

The species was described by 19th century British entomologist Francis Walker.  He published like crazy, shared his knowledge generously, and was respected by many of his peers.  Between 1848 and 1873, he worked at the monumental task of cataloging the insects in the collection of the British Museum, a task for which he was paid one shilling for each new species he determined and one pound for each new genus (and where he ended up describing 16,000 species).  Alas, he turned out to be a little careless/enthusiastic, sometimes assigning multiple different scientific names to specimens of the same species.  One source said that he was no worse than many other entomologists of his day – imagine doing a job like that without the kinds of communication, magnifying, and imaging tools we have today – but the huge scale he was working on multiplied his errors. 

After his death, an unsigned obituary began “More than twenty years too late for his scientific reputation, and after having done an amount of injury almost inconceivable in its immensity, Francis Walker has passed from among us.” 

Brutal!

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

Bug o’the Week – The 12 (or 13) Bugs of Christmas

Bug o’the Week
by Kate Redmond

Bug o’the Week The 12 (or 13) Bugs of Christmas

Greetings of the Season, BugFans,

(13 bugs, because once she’s got her selection down to 13, the BugLady just can’t cut one more!)

A Cheery Thought for the Holidays, the average home contains between 32 and 211 species of arthropods (with the lower numbers at higher Latitudes and higher numbers as you head south past the Mason-Dixon Line).  So, while the BugLady is celebrating The 12 (or 13) Bugs of Christmas, most BugFans could rustle up at least that many under their own roofs.  Whether you see them or not, all kinds of invertebrates coexist with us daily, mostly staying under our radar until we surprise each other with a quick glimpse.

Here are a baker’s dozen of the bugs that the BugLady saw in 2023.

BALTIMORE CHECKERSPOT CATERPILLAR – According to one researcher, caterpillars are “essentially bags of macerated leaves.”  What kind of leaves does a Baltimore Checkerspot caterpillar macerate?  The eggs are laid in the second half of summer on, historically, White turtlehead, a native wildflower, and more recently, Lance-leaved plantain has been added as a host plant.  Both plants contain chemicals that make the caterpillars distasteful to birds, though the turtlehead has higher concentrations of them.  The butterflies have adapted to use an introduced plant, but the caterpillars don’t do as well on it (the BugLady has also seen them on goldenrod).  Half-grown caterpillars overwinter, and when they emerge to finish eating/maturing in spring, the turtlehead isn’t up yet, so they eat the leaves of White ash and a few spring wildflowers.   

LEAFCUTTER BEE ON PITCHER PLANT – Bumble bees and Honey bees are listed as the main pollinators of Purple pitcher plants, along with a flesh fly called the Pitcher plant fly (Fletcherimyia fletcheri), a pitcher plant specialist that contacts the pollen when it shelters in the flowers.  But it looks like this Leafcutter bee is having a go at it. 

SEVEN-SPOTTED LADYBUGS had a moment this year; for a while in early summer, they were the only ladybug/lady beetle that the BugLady saw.  Like the Asian multicolored lady beetle, they were introduced from Eurasia on purpose in the ‘70’s to eat aphids.  But (and the BugLady is getting tired of singing this chorus) they made themselves at home beyond the agricultural fields and set about out-competing our native species. 

An Aside: Lots of people buy sacks of ladybugs to use as pest control in their gardens.  The BugLady did a little poking around to see which species were being sold.  Some sites readily named a native species, but most did not specify.  Several sites warned that unless you are buying lab-grown beetles, your purchase is probably native beetles scooped up during hibernation, thus posing another threat to their numbers

SOLDIER FLY LARVA – The BugLady is familiar with Soldier fly larvae in the form of the flattened, spindle-shaped larvae https://bugguide.net/node/view/1800040/bgimage that float at the surface of still waters, breathing through a “tailpipe” and locomoting with languid undulations.  So she was pretty surprised when she saw this one trucking handily across a rock in a quiet bay along the edge of the Milwaukee River.  It appears to have been crawling through/living in the mud. 

COMMON WOOD NYMPH – And an out-of-focus Common Wood Nymph at that.  The BugLady has a long lens, and her arms weren’t quite long enough to get the butterfly far enough away to focus this shot.  And it’s really hard to change lenses with a butterfly sitting on your finger.

FALSE MILKWEED BUG – Milkweed bugs are seed bugs that live on milkweeds, but if you’ve ever seen a milkweed bug that was not on a milkweed (usually on an ox-eye sunflower), it was probably a False milkweed bug.  They’re so easily mistaken for a Small milkweed bug that one bugguide.net commentator said that all of their pictures of Small milkweed bugs should be reviewed.  Here’s a Small milkweed bug with a single black heart on its back bracketed by an almost-complete orange “X” https://bugguide.net/node/view/2279630/bgimage; and here’s the False milkweed bug, whose markings look (to the BugLady) like an almost complete “X” surrounding two, nesting black hearts https://bugguide.net/node/view/35141.  One thoughtful blogger pointed out that although it looks like a distasteful milkweed feeder, it’s not thought to be toxic.  He wondered if this is a case of mimicry, or if the bug once fed on milkweed, developed protective (aposematic) coloration, and then changed its diet?

LARGE EMPTY OAK APPLE GALL – That’s really its name, but “empty” refers to the less-than-solid interior of the gall https://bugguide.net/node/view/54459 (which was made by this tiny gall wasp https://bugguide.net/node/view/260612).  Galls are formed (generically) when a chemical introduced by the female bug that lays the egg, by the egg itself, and later by the larva, causes the plant to grow extra, sometimes bizarre, tissue at that spot.  The gall maker lives in/eats the inside of the gall until it emerges as an adult.  Some galls are made by mites – same principle.

SYRPHID FLIES are pretty hardy.  Some species appear on the pussy willows and dandelions of early spring, and others nectar on the last dandelions of late fall.  This one was photographed on November 17, on a sunny and breezy day with temperatures in the low 40’s, 12 feet off the ground, resting on the BugLady’s “go-bag” (the bag of extra clothes she carries up onto the hawk tower to deal with the wind chill).

WASP WITH SPIDER – The BugLady saw a little flurry of activity near an orbweaver web on her porch one day, but she got it backward.  At first she thought that the spider had snagged the wasp (a Common blue mud dauber), but it was the wasp that hopped up onto the railing with its prey, part of the spider collection she will put together for an eventual larva.

SIX-SPOTTED TIGER BEETLES grace these collections perhaps more than any other insect, because – why ever not!

JUST-EMERGED DAMSELFLY – This damselfly was so recently emerged (possibly from the shed skin nearby) that its wings are still longer than its abdomen (basic survival theory says that you put a rush on developing the parts you might need most).  Will a few of the aphids on the pondweed leaves be its first meal?

This is either a GREEN IMMIGRANT LEAF WEEVIL (Polydrosus formorus https://bugguide.net/node/view/1678834/bgimage) or the slightly smaller (and equally alien) PALE GREEN WEEVIL (Polydrosus impressifrons https://bugguide.net/node/view/1813505/bgimage).  Whichever it is, it’s been in North America for a little more than a century.  Bugguide.net calls them “adventive” – introduced but not well established.  Eggs are laid in bark crevices or in the soil, and the larvae feed on roots.  Adults eat young leaves, buds, and flowers of some hardwood, fruit, and landscape trees but are not considered big pests.  Their lime-green color comes from iridescent, green scales.

And a DOT-TAILED WHITEFACE in a pear tree.

Have a Wonder-full New Year,

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

Bug o’the Week – Black Zale Moth

Bug o’the Week
by Kate Redmond

Bug o’the Week Black Zale Moth

Greetings, BugFans,

Zale moths (thank goodness) are not small and grayish (the moth equivalent of LBJ’s – “little brown jobs” – the birding acronym for the sparrow group), and thus they are not destined to languish unidentified in the BugLady’s “X-files” for too long They’re in the moth family Erebidae (from the Latin “erebus,” meaning “from the darkness”), which contains lots of colorful and familiar groups, like the Underwings, Tiger moths, Tussock and Lichen moths, and Zales. It also includes the BugLady’s personal nemesis moth, the Black Witch https://uwm.edu/field-station/bug-of-the-week/black-witch-moth/, one of which may have flown past her house this summer while the BugLady was inside, spotted by a guest who later asked “what kind of moth is big, dark, and kind of tattered-looking?”

Pronounced “ZAH’ lay,” the genus contains almost 40 species in North America.  Adults have wingspreads between 1 ½” and 2,” with wings that are camouflaged and at the same time are often strikingly patterned and even iridescent https://bugguide.net/node/view/1713943/bgimagehttps://bugguide.net/node/view/647825/bgimagehttps://bugguide.net/node/view/2080306/bgimage,

https://bugguide.net/node/view/1731967/bgimage.  And, of course, their wings have those neat little scallops on the edges.  Zale moths are nocturnal, with paired hearing organs on the thorax that allow them to detect the calls of hunting bats.  

Wagner’s Caterpillars of Eastern North America calls the Zales “a large and taxonomically challenging genus.”  

Female Zales lay about 200 eggs that hatch in a few weeks, spend a month as caterpillars, and live less than a month as adults.   Bugguide.net describes Zale caterpillars as “exceptionally muscular …. capable of hurling themselves from their perch when alarmed.”  They feed on young leaves by night – some species eat deciduous leaves, and others prefer conifer needles.  Wagner, et al, in Owlet Caterpillars of Eastern North America, says that caterpillars of some species “are leaf clippers that chew through the petiole, dropping any evidence of feeding activity to the forest floor; the chewed leaves might otherwise be used by birds to locate caterpillars.”  With a few notable exceptions, like the Okefenokee Zale https://bugguide.net/node/view/2108403/bgpage, the caterpillars are pretty drab and twig-like. 

BLACK ZALES (Zale undularis) are found near their host plants – Black locust and Honey locusts.  One source speculated that as Black locust has spread from its original range, the Black Zale has followed it.

Brief Aside: Black locust is a native species that is considered invasive outside its original range, including in Wisconsin.  Wikipedia tells us that “The exact native range is not known…….The native range is thought to be two separate populations, one centered about the Appalachian Mountains, from Pennsylvania to northern Georgia, and a second westward focused around the Ozark Plateau and Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri.“  Whatever its native range, Black locust has been planted extensively throughout the country.

Although it’s a valuable wildlife plant (hosting, among other things, 67 species of Lepidoptera, while providing cover and seeds for other animals), it has a bad habit of taking over and turning grassland habitats into shady ones (it’s a pioneer – a sun-loving species that produces enough shade for mid-tolerant woody species to establish themselves). The roots of the BugLady’s big locusts are holding the dune together, so she has a moral dilemma. 

Another Brief Aside: The moth was photographed on a layer of wood chips that covers a huge piece of cardboard that covers a nasty, aggressive, persistent ground cover plant called Bishop’s weed (Aegopodium podagraria), aka goutweed, snow-on-the-mountain (a version of Bishop’s weed that has variegated leaves), and a bunch of names that have four letters.  The BugLady’s minions have been fighting it for a few years with fire, vinegar, and now cardboard.  If you don’t have bishop’s weed, don’t plant it, no matter what the nursery folks say, and if you’ve successfully gotten rid of it (without nuking it with chemicals), please tell the BugLady how.  

OK – Back to bugs.

Like most of the Zales, Black Zales are eastern(-ish) moths; buggude.net says that they’re found from Manitoba and Minnesota to New Brunswick, south to Florida and Arkansas.  And, like most of the Zales, Black Zales can show a lot of variation in color and pattern https://bugguide.net/node/view/323477/bgimage,

Adults are mainly seen in the first half of summer, though they can be hard to find when they’re sitting on a tree trunk https://bugguide.net/node/view/1204274/bgimage, and caterpillars can be hard to spot at all https://mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu/species.php?hodges=8695, especially when they’re feeding on the undersides of leaves.  They overwinter on the ground as pupae, in leaf litter.

Wagner, in Caterpillars of Eastern North America, says that “Zale caterpillars are highly mobile as first instars, often wandering long distances before they begin feeding.  Most prefer young leaf tissue, especially in early instars, then consume older leaves and needles in late instars.

Don’t let the nursery folks sell you Black locusts, either.

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

Bug o’the Week – Wildflower Watch – Swamp Milkweed

Bug o’the Week
by Kate Redmond

Bug o’the Week Wildflower Watch – Swamp Milkweed

Howdy, BugFans,

The BugLady is already fantasizing about warm, sunny days in a wetland, photographing Swamp milkweed (and dragonflies), because she loves its color, and she loves being in wetlands, and because it’s a very busy plant, indeed!

Also called rose or red milkweed (there are a couple of species of southern milkweeds that are also called red milkweed), white Indian hemp, water nerve-root, and water silkweed, Swamp milkweed prefers damp soils and full sun near the water’s edge.

Indians, and later, the European settlers, used it medicinally (a tea made from the roots was reputed to “drive the worms from a person in one hour’s time”).  It was used with caution – its sap is poisonous – and the cardiac glycosides that protect Monarchs also deter mammals from grazing on all but the very young plants.  The fibers in its stem were twisted into rope and twine and were used in textiles.

Its flowers are typical milkweed flowers – a corona of five parts (hoods) with curved petals below and curved, nectar-secreting horns above.  The flowers are tricky – sticky, golden, saddlebag-shaped pollinia are hidden behind what one author calls a trap door (a stigmatic slit).  Insects walk around on the flower head, and when one of their feet slips through the slit by chance, a pollinium sticks to it.  When the bug encounters a stigmatic slit on the next plant it visits, the pollen is inadvertently delivered.  A quick-and-dirty, pick-up and delivery is what the plant had in mind; but, like the story of the raccoon (or was it a monkey) that reaches into the jar for a candy bar and then can’t pull its fist out of the small opening, sometimes the insect’s foot gets stuck to pollinia inside the trap door.  Insects that can’t free themselves will die dangling from the flower, and insects that escape may be gummed up by the waxy structures.  Look carefully for pollinia in the pictures.

Milkweeds support complex communities of invertebrates – their nectar attracts ants, bugs, beetles, flies, butterflies, moths, bees, and wasps, plus predators looking for a meal.  Here are some of the insects that the BugLady sees on Swamp milkweed.

TWO-BANDED PETROPHILA MOTHS (Petrophila bifascialis) are delicate moths that lead a double life.  By day, they sit sedately on streamside vegetation.  By night, the female crawls down the side of a rock into the water – sometimes several feet down – to deposit her eggs on the stream bottom, breathing air that she brings with her, held against her ventral surface (“Petrophila” means “rock-lover”).  Her larvae eventually attach themselves to a rock and spin a net to keep themselves there, feeding on diatoms and algae that they harvest from the rock’s surface with their mandibles. 

MULBERRY WING SKIPPER – A small (one-inch-ish wingspan) butterfly of wetlands with an arrow or airplane-shaped marking on its rich, chestnut-brown underwings (the upper surface of its wings looks completely different https://bugguide.net/node/view/34033/bgimage.  Adults fly slowly through low vegetation, where females lay their eggs on the leaves of sedges. 

FLOWER LONGHORN BEETLE BRACHYLEPTURA CHAMPLAINI (no common name), on a Swamp milkweed leaf.  Other than a “present” checkoff in a variety of natural area insect surveys, there’s just about nothing online about this beetle, and not much more in Evans’ book, Beetles of Eastern North America.  It’s a long-horned beetle in the Flower longhorn subfamily Lepturinae, a group that feeds on pollen in the daytime.  This one has pollinia on its mouthparts.

AMBUSH BUG – The dangling bee in this picture did not fall victim to the sticky pollinia (though it has plenty of them on its legs).  A well-camouflaged ambush bug snagged it as it visited the flower. 

SOLDIER BEETLE – These guys drive the BugLady crazy.  They’re lightning beetle mimics, and they’re pretty good at it, and she always overthinks the ID.  She doesn’t know why they’re imitating the closely-related lightning beetles – alarmed lightning beetles discharge poisonous blood/hemolymph from their leg joints, but alarmed soldier beetles do, too. 

CRAB SPIDER –This Goldenrod crab spider tucked itself down between the milkweed flowers and ambushed an Odontomyia soldier fly https://bugguide.net/node/view/417289/bgimage.

LARGE MILKWEED BUG – What a beauty!  Large milkweed bugs are seed bugs – they feed by poking their beaklike mouthparts through the shell of a milkweed pod and sucking nutrients from the seeds.  They don’t harm the plant (just the seed crop), and they don’t harm monarch caterpillars, either.  Like other milkweed feeders, they sport aposematic (warning) colors to inform predators of their unpalatability.  Large milkweed bugs don’t like northern winters and are migratory – like monarchs, the shortening day lengths, the lowering angle of the sun, and increasingly tough milkweed leaves signal that it’s time to go, and they travel south to find fresher greens.  Their descendants head north in spring.

MONARCH CATERPILLAR – Common milkweed and Swamp milkweed are Monarch butterflies’ top picks for egg laying. 

GREAT-SPANGLED FRITILLARY – The other big, orange butterfly.  Adults enjoy milkweeds and a variety of other wildflowers, and their caterpillars feed on violets – if they’re lucky enough to connect with some.  Females lay eggs in fall, near, but not necessarily on, violets, and the caterpillars emerge soon afterward.  They drink water but they don’t eat; they aestivate through winter in the leaf litter and awake in spring to look for their emerging host plants.

GIANT SWALLOWTAIL – A southern butterfly that seems to be getting a foothold in Wisconsin.  The book says they are annual migrants that produce a generation here in summer and that their caterpillars can’t tolerate Wisconsin winters, but the BugLady has seen very fresh-looking Giant Swallowtails here in May that didn’t look like they had just been on a long flight.  Their caterpillars are called Orange Dogs in the South, because their host plants are in the Rue/Citrus family Rutaceae.  In this neck of the woods, females lay their eggs on Prickly ash, a small shrub that’s the northernmost member of that family. 

CINNAMON CLEARWING MOTH – A nectar-sipper but, since it doesn’t land, not a serious pollinator.

NORTHERN PAPER WASP – Butterflies love Swamp Milkweed, and so do wasps.  The Northern paper wasp is the social wasp that makes a smallish (usually fewer than 200 inhabitants) open-celled, down-facing, stemmed nest https://bugguide.net/node/view/1411890/bgimage.  “Northern” is a misnomer – they’re found from Canada through Texas and from the Atlantic well into the Great Plains.  Her super power is chewing on cellulose material, mixing it with saliva, and creating paper pulp.  She may be on the swamp milkweed to get pollen and nectar for herself or to collect small invertebrates to feed to the colony’s larvae.  Curious about Northern paper wasps?  See https://bugeric.blogspot.com/2010/09/wasp-wednesday-northern-paper-wasp.html.

Also seen were ants, leafcutter bees, sweat bees, Great black wasps, Great golden digger wasps, Red soldier beetles, Fiery and Broad-winged Skipper butterflies, and Thick-headed flies.  

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

Bug o’the Week – Bugs in the News
by Kate Redmond

Bug o’the Week
by Kate Redmond

Bugs in the News

Howdy, BugFans,

As usual, the BugLady’s “Bugs in the News” folder runneth over, so here’s a collection of articles to chew on.  Many come from the wonderful Smithsonian Daily Newsletter, which not only posts a lot of good stuff, it doesn’t put articles behind a paywall.  Support your Smithsonian!

THANKS, POLLINATORS – https://www.smithsonianmag.com/blogs/national-zoo/2022/06/29/8-reasons-to-bee-in-awe-of-pollinators/?utm_source=smithsoniandaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20220629-daily-responsive&spMailingID=47040669&spUserID=ODg4Mzc3MzY0MTUyS0&spJobID=2263232055&spReportId=MjI2MzIzMjA1NQS2

SMALL BUT MIGHTY (get in line, Ben Franklin) – https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/honeybee-swarms-can-produce-as-much-electric-charge-as-a-thunderstorm-180981005/?utm_source=smithsoniandaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20221028daily-responsive&spMailingID=47569605&spUserID=ODg4Mzc3MzY0MTUyS0&spJobID=2326297509&spReportId=MjMyNjI5NzUwOQS2

JUST MIGHTY – https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/scientists-just-discovered-the-largest-invertebrate-to-ever-live-an-ancient-9-foot-millipede-180979293/?utm_source=smithsoniandaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20211223-daily-responsive&spMailingID=46155101&spUserID=ODg4Mzc3MzY0MTUyS0&spJobID=2142675899&spReportId=MjE0MjY3NTg5OQS2

HOW SPRINGTAILS SPRING – https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/springtails-are-natures-tiny-gymnasts-videos-reveal-180981094/?utm_source=smithsoniandaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20221109daily-responsive&spMailingID=47620026&spUserID=ODg4Mzc3MzY0MTUyS0&spJobID=2341182089&spReportId=MjM0MTE4MjA4OQS2

SPIDERWEBS TRAP SOUND – https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2022/03/orb-weaver-spider-uses-web-capture-sounds

ANTS MAKE MILK – https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/scientists-discover-that-ants-make-a-milk-like-substance-180981237/?utm_source=smithsoniandaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20221205daily-responsive&spMailingID=47722949&spUserID=ODg4Mzc3MzY0MTUyS0&spJobID=2360514556&spReportId=MjM2MDUxNDU1NgS2

AND THEY SERIOUSLY OUTNUMBER US – https://www.npr.org/2022/09/21/1124216118/ants-number-study-quadrillion?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20220921&utm_term=7276606&utm_campaign=news&utm_id=2548916&orgid=675&utm_att1=

BUMBLE BEES PLAY – https://www.npr.org/2022/11/05/1134355887/bumblebees-can-play-does-it-mean-they-have-feelings-study-says-yes?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20221107&utm_term=7492099&utm_campaign=news&utm_id=2548916&orgid=675&utm_att1=

MOTH NAVIGATION (AND ain’t technology grand!) – https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/scientists-study-how-deaths-head-hawk-moths-fly-along-a-straight-path-180980680/?utm_source=smithsoniandaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20220908daily-responsive&spMailingID=47344619&spUserID=ODg4Mzc3MzY0MTUyS0&spJobID=2320890017&spReportId=MjMyMDg5MDAxNwS2

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

Bug o’the Week – Lichen Moths

Bug o’the Week

Lichen Moths

Howdy, BugFans,

The BugLady sat on the hawk tower today, watching the start of the fall migration.  She was surrounded by the start of the dragonfly migration – there was a big emergence of the migratory population of Common Green Darners yesterday, and both darners and Black Saddlebags were drifting south along the lakeshore.  It doesn’t get any better than this.

A friend of the BugLady’s found one of these spiffy moths recently and wanted information about it.  Here’s a rerun from 10 years ago.

Lichen moths have it all!!  Toxins, aposematism, attitude, thoracic tympana and ultrasonic emanations, sensory setae, fecal flicking, mimicry, and even cannibalism!  What an insect!!

Taxonomic Lumpers and Splitters have been working on the moths again.  Lichen moths (Hypoprepia sp) are in the Tiger moth family Arctiidae – or in the family Erebidae – depending on whose book you read.  Apparently, a bunch of moths in the Owlet moth family plus all of the members of the tussock moth and tiger moth families, plus a bunch of small families have been assigned to the family Erebidae, but Moth People are not 100% onboard with that yet, so stay tuned.  And, according to Wagner in Caterpillars of Eastern North America, “Adults of eastern Hypoprepia vary considerably in different parts of the Southeast, so much so that some lepidopterists feel additional species will eventually be recognized.” 

Lichen moth larvae https://bugguide.net/node/view/1483889/bgimage eat lichens and blue-green algae that they find growing on tree trunks.  As BugFans will recall from high school biology, lichens are a plant partnership – two plants growing symbiotically as one.  Structure, roots, and water are provided by a fungus “body,” and photosynthesis is carried out by algae that live within the fungus (or, as we Naturalists say – too often – “a lichen is a fungus and an alga that have taken a likin’ to each other.”).  Along with lichens, caterpillars have been reported to eat their smaller brethren and even LM pupae.  

Toxins from their veggies may make LM caterpillars poisonous to predators. The hairy caterpillars don’t come in startling warning (aposematic) colors (they look a bit like gypsy moth caterpillars http://bugguide.net/node/view/121849/bgimage), but the bright colors of the adults probably signal a non-tasty morsel within. 

Like the caterpillars of the Silver-spotted skipper butterfly (of previous BOTW fame), caterpillars in the genus Hypoprepia are able to fire their frass (bug poop) up to 30 body lengths away from themselves.  It’s called “fecal flicking.”  Why do it?  Some parasitic and predatory wasps track down potential prey by the scent of its frass, so the LM distances itself from its by-products.  Anal combs trap frass that’s coming down the pipeline and hold it until the “blood pressure” at the caterpillar’s tip becomes too great and the frass rifles out (the BugLady couldn’t make this up). 

LMs have some interesting sensory abilities, both as caterpillars and as adults.  Like typical adult tiger moths, LMs have “ears” located on their thorax.  They also make a variety of ultrasonic noises with organs on their thorax – this is an insect that can hear bats coming and, confident in its toxicity, sass them back, warning them against feeding on unwholesome LMs.  They also “vocalize” during courtship, and females have a pair of glands on the top of their thorax that crank out pheromones – chemical “scents” that lure males to them.  According to Sogaard, in Moths of the North Woods, caterpillars in the family are “typically densely hairy.  Some (perhaps all) caterpillars are sensitive to low-frequency sound through setae” (hairs). 

LMs overwinter as caterpillars, and adult LMs in this neck of the woods probably do not eat, though their tropical brethren do. 

The BugLady has been going happily bug-eyed trying to decide whether these are

SCARLET/SCARLET-WINGED LICHEN MOTHS or PAINTED LICHEN MOTHS or both (she suspects both).  SLMs are supposed to be very red and PLMs to have a yellowish cast, but she’s seen official pictures of each that stray into the other’s tint https://bugguide.net/node/view/2144967/bgimagehttps://bugguide.net/node/view/853217/bgimage.  One reference suggests that SLMs have red heads and PLMs have yellow/gray heads (or maybe not).  At any rate, their lifestyles, ranges, and habitats (woodlands, east of the Rockies) are very similar, and these are two of only four species in the genus in North America.  Right now.

It has been suggested that adult PAINTED LICHEN MOTHS (Hypoprepia fucosa) mimic lightning beetles, which have toxic blood.

SCARLET LICHEN MOTHS (Hypoprepia miniata) are partial to lichens that grow on the trunks of red pine, and therefore gravitate to more coniferous woodlands (though they will nosh on lichens elsewhere if red pines aren’t available).  Miniata comes from the Latin word miniatus, which references lead-based vermillion or red paint.

Oh – and they have beauty!

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

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