A Moth Among the Ferns

Northern Petrophora (Petrophora subaequaria)


I was out taking a walk Sunday afternoon and saw many different small moths flying out from hiding in the grass and blueberry bushes. Most were too small and fast to get a good look at them. The one shown above flew and ducked under some grass blades just long enough for me to get a few snapshots before it took off. Later I went out again and saw dozens of them in a forest clearing full of bracken fern. The species is Northern Petrophora (Petrophora subaequaria, Family Geometridae) and its larvae feed only on ferns with bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) apparently the principle host plant. Photos at Bug Guide show the larvae on fronds of Osmunda fern.


Some brief information on Northern Petrophora (Petrophora subaequaria)

Superfamily Geometroidea (Geometrid and Swallowtail Moths)
Family Geometridae (Geometrid Moths)
Subfamily Ennominae
Tribe Lithinini
Genus/species Petrophora subaequaria

Wing span to 19 mm, speckled tan forewings with yellowish veins, antemedial and postmedial lines white edged and parallel. There is a small black dot in the center of the wings.

Life cycle
As with many moths not directly injurious to crops and forestry there is little information on the life history of Northern Petrophora. With so many adult moths appearing now in my bracken field it seems that mating and egg laying occur in the spring.

Northern Petrophora occurs in North America from New Brunswick to Alberta, along the Great Lakes east to New England, and then south sporadically along the Appalachians to North Carolina.



Beadle, D. and Leckie, S. (2012). Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Boston. 640 pages.

Voss, Edward G. (1991) “Moths of the Douglas Lake Region (Emmet and Cheboygan Counties), Michigan: IV. Geometridae (Lepidoptera),” The Great Lakes Entomologist: Vol. 24 : No. 3 , Article 11. Available at: http://scholar.valpo.edu/tgle/vol24/iss3/11

Species accounts at Bug Guide, Moth Photographers Group, HOSTS,




Two new species last night


I didn’t find five new species last night like I had hoped to but I did find two, Curved-toothed Geometer (Eutrapela clemataria) in the Family Geometridae (Geometrid Moths) and Gray Leafroller (Syndemis afflictana) in the Family Tortricidae (Tortricid Moths), which, like almost all the moths I’ve found to date, are new records for Carlton County. These two species bring the checklist to 197 species.

Curved-toothed Geometer is similar in appearance to Large Maple Spanworm (Prochoerodes lineola, Family Geometridae) but can be told apart by its scalloped wing margins, hooked wing tips, and the pale yellow postmedial line across the forewings. Color of the forewings varies from light brown to dark purplish brown to brownish gray and may be mottled with fine spots. The range of Curved-toothed Geometer is east of the Mississippi River and north into southern Canada. Larvae of Curved-toothed Geometer feed on many trees including ash (Fraxinus spp.), basswood (Tilia spp.), birch (Betula spp.), elm (Ulmus spp.), and poplar (Populus spp.).

Two moths seen in the last several days returned: Agonopterix pulvipennella (Family Depressariidae) and Black-dashed Hydriomena (Hydriomena divisaria, Family Geometridae (Geometrid Moths)).



And there were some moths first seen here last summer. Two of them, Pale Metanema (Metanema inatomaria) and Dark Metanema (Metanema determinata) are in the Family Geometridae (Geometrid Moths). The other, Apical Prominent (Clostera apicalis), is in the Family Notodontidae (Prominent Moths) and is one of two species of Clostera I have found the other being Sigmoid Prominent (C. albosigma). Apical Prominent differs from Sigmoid Prominent by the wavy postmedial line that borders a large rust colored apical patch and by the kinked oblique median line of the forewing as compared to the parallel lines of Sigmoid Prominent. The larvae of all four species feed on aspen (Populus spp.) and willows (Salix spp.). These moth species occur over most of the US and southern Canada.



Although I am feeling a bit tired I think I will put in a few hours tonight looking for moths again.


Beadle, D. and Leckie, S. (2012). Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Boston. 640 pages.

Species accounts at Bug Guide and Moth Photographers Group.

Mothing Update April/May

Phyllodesma americana
American Lappet Moth (Phyllodesma americana)


I’ve been trying to wrap up this post but keep finding more moths. At the end of last week I had 6 identified moth species and 5 unidentified species since seeing the first moth of 2018 on April 18th. Over the weekend I added five more: American Lappet Moth (Phyllodesma americana), Willow Dart Moth (Cerastis salicarum), Variable Carpet Moth (Anticlea vasiliata), Featherduster Agonopterix (Agonopterix pulvipennella), and Mottled Black-marked Moth (Semioscopis aurorella) bringing the count to 11 species. But as of Tuesday (May 15) the count now stands at 16 species when I added these five: Multiform Leafroller Moth (Acleris flavivittana), Snowy-shouldered Acleris (Acleris nivisellana), Strawberry Moth (Acleris fragariana), Bent-wing Acleris (Acleris subnivana), and The Herald Moth (Scoliopteryx libatrix). And I have added six more to the “Unknown Moths” file four of which are discussed at the end of the post. So, a lot of new moth species for the property’s species checklist and summer is still a month away.

On to the featured image and the other new moths

The American Lappet Moth shown above is much more blue than is typical for the species which is yellowish-brown or reddish to almost orange. It is in the Tent Caterpillar family (Lasiocampidea) and the larvae feed on alder (Alnus spp.) birch (Betula spp.), oak (Quercus spp.), and rose (Rosa spp.). American Lappet Moth occurs over almost all of North America north of Mexico.



Willow Dart Moth (Cerastis salicarum) is in Noctuidae (Owlet Moths), Subfamily Noctuinae (Cutworm or Dart Moths) but different tribes (Noctuini and Xylenini respectively). Larval host plants of Willow Dart Moth are thought to be willows (Salix spp.) but this may not the case. The range of Willow Dart Moth is from southern Canada to the northern US.

Variable Carpet Moth (Anticlea vasiliata) is in the Family Geometridae (Geometrid Moths), Subfamily Larentiinae. Its larvae feed on red raspberry (Rubus idaeus). Variable Carpet Moth occurs from Newfoundland to North Carolina and Tennessee, west to California and British Columbia.

Featherduster Agonopterix (Agonopterix pulvipennella) and Mottled Black-marked Moth (Semioscopis aurorella) are in the moth Superfamily Gelechioidea (Twirler Moths and kin), Family Depressariidae, Subfamily Depressariinae. The larvae of Featherduster Agonopterix feed on the leaves of goldenrod (Solidago spp.) and stinging nettle (Urtica spp.). Those of Mottled Black-marked Moth feed on leaves of Prunus spp. (plums, cherries). Featherduster Agonopterix occurs from Quebec and New Brunswick to Georgia and Mississippi, and north to Saskatchewan. Mottled Black-marked Moth occurs from southeastern Canada to the northeastern US as far south as Virginia and Indiana.



Multiform Leafroller Moth (Acleris flavivittana), Strawberry Moth (Acleris fragariana), Bent-wing Acleris (Acleris subnivana), and Snowy-shouldered Acleris (Acleris nivisellana) are in the Family Tortricidae (Tortricid Moths), Subfamily Tortricinae, Tribe Tortricini. All four species range from southern Canada to the northeastern US with scattered occurrences from Louisiana to Georgia. Snowy-shouldered Acleris and Strawberry Moth are also found from California to British Columbia.

Strawberry Moth (Acleris fragariana) is a generalist feeder on members of the Rosaceae. Larval hosts include strawberry (Fragaria spp.), blackberry (Rubus spp.), rose (Rosa spp.), plum (Prunus spp.), cinquefoil (Potentilla spp.), and black chokeberry (Photinia melanocarpa).

Snowy-shouldered Acleris (Acleris nivisellana) larvae feed on pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) and Multiform Leafroller Moth (Acleris flavivittana) feed on apple (Malus spp.) and pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica). The larvae of Bent-wing Acleris (Acleris subnivana) are more specialized feeding on red oak (Quercus rubra) but also Vernonia spp. (ironweed) which is a herbaceous plant in the aster family (Asteraceae). Note: The Bent-wing Acleris I have here looks a little like what I thought might be (but wasn’t very sure of) Forbes’ Acleris (Acleris forbesana) in an earlier post. I will have to revisit that one.

The Herald Moth (Scoliopteryx libatrix) is in the Superfamily Noctuoidea (Owlet Moths and kin), Family Erebidae, Subfamily Scoliopteryginae, Tribe Scoliopterygini. Its larvae feed on poplar (Populus spp.) and willow (Salix spp.). There are typically two generations a summer. The last generation overwinters in the adult form in cavities, shed walls, and caves and emerges in the spring. The Herald Moth is a Holarctic species which in the North American part of its range occurs from southern Canada and over much of the US.

Some unknown moths no longer unknown

Also, in the past couple of weeks I have figured out several more moths from last summer’s photos. Among them are Large Mossy Lithacodia Moth (Protodeltote muscosula), Morrison’s Sooty Dart Moth (Pseudohermonassa tenuicula), Jeweled Tailed Slug Moth (Packardia geminata), and Garden Tortix (Clepsis peritana). With the newly identified species from last year and this year the moth species checklist is now at 190 species.



Large Mossy Lithacodia Moth (Protodeltote muscosula) is in the Superfamily Noctuoidea (Owlet Moths and kin), Family Noctuidae (Owlet Moths), Subfamily Eustrotiinae. The larvae are reported to feed on feed on sawgrass (Cladium) which is not a grass but a sedge (Cyperaceae). Because the only Cladium in Minnesota is Cmariscoides, a rare species, I suspect this moth’s larvae also feed on other wetland species of Cyperaceae. Large Mossy Lithacodia occurs over much of the eastern US east of the Great Plains and parts of southern Ontario and Quebec.

Morrison’s Sooty Dart Moth (Pseudohermonassa tenuicula) is in the Superfamily Noctuoidea (Owlet Moths and kin), Family Noctuidae (Owlet Moths) Subfamily Noctuinae (Cutworm or Dart Moths), Tribe Noctuini, Subtribe Noctuinaarvae. Larvae feed on mannagrass (Glyceria spp.) a plant commonly found in wetlands. Morrison’s Sooty Dart Moth ranges across the northern United States and southern Canada and north to Northwest Territories.

Jeweled Tailed Slug Moth (Packardia geminata) is in the Superfamily Zygaenoidea (Flannel, Slug Caterpillar, Leaf Skeletonizer Moths and kin), Family Limacodidae (Slug Caterpillar Moths). The green slug-like larvae are polyphagous and feed on a variety of plants such as cherry and plum (Prunus spp.) and wild raisin and arrowwood (Viburnum spp.). Jeweled Tailed Slug Moth occurs in the eastern US east of the Great Plains and in southern Ontario and Quebec.

Garden Tortix (Clepsis peritana) is in the Superfamily Tortricoidea (Tortricid Moths), Family Tortricidae (Tortricid Moths), Subfamily Tortricinae, Tribe Archipini. Larvae are generalist feeders. Among the plants they have been observed eating are strawberry (Fragaria spp.), cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), hedgenettle (Stachys spp.) and other low plants. Dying or dead leaves are the preferred food source but they will eat the fruit of strawberries. The larvae also eat dead citrus leaves in groves and will switch to live leaves once these are used up or caterpillar populations are high. Garden Tortix occurs widely across North America.

And this


Unknown moth larva


A small brown moth larva I found the other day in a wetland on a clump of Canada bluejoint grass (Calamagrostis canadensis). Species? I don’t yet. That’s it for now.



Beadle, D. and Leckie, S. (2012). Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Boston. 640 pages.

Species accounts at Bug Guide, Moth Photographers Group, Tortricid.net, HOSTS – a Database of the World’s Lepidopteran Hostplants, and Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

E. L. Atkins, Jr., E. L. (1958). The Garden Tortrix, Clepsis peritana (Clemens): A New Economic Pest in Southern California. Journal of Economic Entomology, Vol. 51(5): 596–598.

Acleris celiana?

Acleris celiana moth
Acleris celiana


These tiny Tortricid moths with white stripes along their wing margins are really confusing me. On Monday I wrote about a moth that didn’t seem to be a close fit with the description for the species Ancylis albacostana which I thought it might be. It was by accident I figured it out. The moth is Acleris celiana and not an Ancylis at all. I was out on my porch Monday night sipping espresso and taking photos of little moths, caddisflies, and some sort of wasp (a species of Ophion I think) when this same kind of moth flew in. I got one shot before it took off and had to wait awhile before it came back and I could get more shots. Later, while going through photos on the Moth Photographers Group (MPG) trying to figure out another species I came across this which looks a lot like the moth I had just found. I have posted the images on Bug Guide and BAMONA and am awaiting comments on the species identity. (Update on 05-29-18: Bug Guide says it is Acleris celiana not Ancylis albacostana.)

Coleman first described Acleris celiana in 1869 under the name Teras celiana. “Anterior wings rich dark chocolate-brown slightly mottled with dark gray. There is a tuft of pale ochreous scales on the center of the disk, and beyond, in the apical portion of the wing a few scattered similarly colored raised scales. Fringes gray.” There is no mention of the white band. However, both Bug Guide and MPG show specimens of Acleris celiana with and without white bands.

Kearfott’s description of Ancylis albacosana reads “Fore wing lead color, rather heavily overlaid on inner two-thirds below the costa (main vein along leading edge of wing) with brownish and blackish scales. From the base to the apex on the costa is a pure white band, widest at end of cell, where it is nearly a quarter the width of wing; continuing to base with only a trifle less width, and lower edge curving evenly into costa and ending in a point at apex.”

I’m leaning strongly towards Acleris celiana on this one. Finding Ancylis albacostana would be great but the species is not, as far as I know, documented from Minnesota although there is at least one record from adjacent Wisconsin.

As for the rest of Monday night’s mothing, I found three more moth species and got a very clean shot of the caddisfly Glyphopsyche irrorata. Two of the moths are in Agonopterix (possibly A. canadensis and A. clemensella) and one is another Acleris (possibly Acleris forbesana). And now it is 10:10 PM Tuesday night and I’m staying up late looking for more moths. So far I have two new ones to figure out.




Kearfott, William Dunham (1905). Descriptions of New Species of Tortricid Moths From North Carolina, With Notes. Proceedings of the United States National Museum, Vol. 28: 319-364. Description on page 360.

Robinson, Coleman, T. (1869). Notes on American Tortricidae. Transaction of the American Entomological Society (1867-1877). Vol. 2 (1868/1869):261-288. Description on page 283-284.

Genus Ophion – Short-tailed Ichneumon Wasps at Bug Guide.

Species Acleris celiana – Hodges#3533 at Bug Guide.

620033.00 – 3533 – Acleris celiana – (Robinson, 1869) at Moth Photographers Group.

A caddisfly species

Glyphopsyche irrorata


The insect above is a caddisfly and one of many caddisfly species that live in northern Minnesota. Caddisflies (Order Trichoptera) are typically active during the warm months of summer and early fall but this caddisfly was active on the evening of April 25 when air temperatures were in the low 40s. It took me about a couple of days to figure out the species after searching Bug Guide and comparing photos (compare the pattern on the ends of the wings with this) and then doing a literature search. This caddisfly is Glyphopsyche irrorata which is in the Family Limnephilidae and is interesting for a few reasons the first of which is its mode of surviving the winter. Larval Girrorata live in small ponds such as vernal pools and peatland ponds, shallow marshes, and slow moving streams that may dry up by the end of summer. Many caddisfly species in similar habits lay eggs in gelatinous masses under moist objects in the drying water body where the larvae remain until favorable conditions return. Girrorata has a different survival strategy. It goes through a rapid larval development after the eggs are laid in May, pupates in August, and emerges as an adult in September. Mating takes place in the autumn and then the adults go into hibernation until the following spring (more mating may take place then) when the females lay eggs in small ponds and slow moving streams. The larvae build cases from bits of organic material and mineral material and are detrivorius shredders feeding on decaying wood and other organic matter.

Another reason Girrorata is interesting, at least from the standpoint of where this one was found, is that this species has been recorded only twice in Minnesota in 41 years. The first time was in 1977 in Clearwater County and the second was in 2000 in Cook County. This sighting makes the third time and in a new county. Although not on Minnesota’s rare species list it must be uncommon to have only two previous records in the state. This is in spite of several caddisfly surveys conducted in the state in the last 20 years. The range of Girrorata is Nearctic extending from Newfoundland to Alaska and south to California, in the Great Lakes Region and then east to New Hampshire and Maine. The number of known sites where Girrorata occurs in Wisconsin, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Maine are few.

Girrorata is attracted to lights as are many caddisflies. It is also attracted to sweet liquids like maple sap in tapping buckets. Many caddisfly species that fly during the summer are nectar and sap feeders, too. Using a combination of lights and sweet liquids might be a way to attract this species.


The forewings are grayish chocolate-brown with small spots and many larger translucent patches. Length is about 16 mm.


Order: Trichoptera

Superfamily: Limnephiloidea

Family: Limnephilidae (Northern Caddisflies)

Subfamily: Limnephilinae

Tribe: Chilostigmini

Species: Glyphopsyche irrorata


Berté, Stephen B., and Gordon Pritchard (1983). The Life History of Glyphopsyche Irrorata (Trichoptera, Limnephilidae): A Caddisfly That Overwinters as an Adult. Holarctic Ecology, Vol. 6, No. 1: 69-73. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3682718.

Betten, Cornelius. (1934). The caddis flies or Trichoptera of New York State, Bulletin of the New York State Museum No. 292:1-576.

Casey Scott and Jeffrey Dimick. A Distributional Atlas of Riffle Insects from Wisconsin Streams. Aquatic Biomonitoring Laboratory, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. 437 pp. © 2010.

Chadde, Steve W., Shelly, J. Stephen, Bursik, Robert J., Moseley, Robert K., Evenden, Angela G., Mantas, Maria, Rabe, Fred, and Heide, Bonnie. Peatlands on National Forests of the Northern Rocky Mountains: Ecology and Conservation. 80 pages. United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. General Technical Report. RMRS-GTR-11 July 1998.

Houghton, David C. (2012). Biological diversity of the Minnesota caddisflies (Insecta, Trichoptera). ZooKeys, Vol. 189:1-389. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.189.2043.

Houghton, David C., DeWalt, R. Edward, Pytel, Angelica J., Brandin, Constance M., Rogers, Sarah E., Ruiter, David E., Bright, Ethan, Hudson, Patrick L., and Armitage, Brian J. (2017). Updated checklist of the Michigan (USA) caddisflies, with regional and habitat affinities. ZooKeys Vol. 730: 57–74. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.730.21776 http://zookeys.pensoft.net

Majka, Christopher G. (2010). Insects attracted to Maple Sap: Observations from Prince Edward Island, Canada. ZooKeys Vol. 51:73– 83. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.51.478.

Nimmo, Andrew P. ( 1971). The adult Rhyacophilidae and Limnephilidae (Trichoptera) of Alberta and eastern British Columbia and their post–glacial origin. Quaestiones entomologicae, Vol. 7:3-234.

Species Glyphopsyche irrorata at BugGuide.Net.

UNH Insect and Arachnid Collections – Record Detail Glyphopsyche irroata. University of New Hampshire Department of Biological Sciences.

Wiggins, Glenn C. and Parker, Charles R. Caddisflies (Trichoptera) of the Yukon, with Analysis of the Beringian and Holarctic Species of North America, pp. 787-866 in Danks, H. V. and Downes, John A. (Eds.), Insects of the Yukon. Biological Survey of Canada (Terrestrial Arthropods), Ottawa. 1034 pp. © 1997.