I’ll be away from my desk…

Metanema inatomaria a species seen last summer on warm humid nights.

 

…during much of July and so will be posting a little less frequently. But summer has arrived and brings with it a new group of moths that love the hot and humid weather. Here are five of the seventeen new moths plus one returning visitor that showed up at my porch light over the weekend. I’ll be writing about these species later in August. There are already a few in the works on the moths Habrosyne scripta (almost done!), Oreta rosea, Phlogophora iris, Campaea perlata, and Monopis spilotella seen this year and last year.

 

Arctic Skipper

Carterocephalus palaemon, Arctic Skipper, widespread in Minnesota. It was previously known from Carlton County by a historical record. There do not seem to be any recent records from the county other than this one.

 

This small butterfly with dark brown wings and yellow spots is the Arctic Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon). I saw it a few days ago on a warm, sunny, and humid afternoon on June 12. It was resting on a blade of grass in a sunny opening in an encroaching forest. Although the Arctic Skipper is widely distributed and ranked a G5 or “globally secure” there is only one record that I could find of it from Carlton County and it is historical but there was no information about when or where it was seen or who saw it.

Taxonomy
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Papilionoidea (Butterflies and Skippers)
Family Hesperiidae (Skippers)
Subfamily Heteropterinae (Intermediate Skippers)
Genus/species Carterocephalus palaemon

Description
The upper wing surface is dark brown to almost black with roughly rectangular yellow spots. Below they are like the color of a deer fawn and marked with black-rimmed yellow spots. Wingspread is 2.5 to 3.2 cm.

Range
A circumboreal species found in North America from Alaska to Canada’s Atlantic coast and south to California and Pennsylvania. Not truly an Arctic species.

Larval Host Plants
Larvae of Carterocephalus palaemon eat grasses. In California purple reedgrass (Calamagrostis purpurascens) is reported as a larval host. In some European countries, brome (Bromus spp.) are preferred larval hosts.  Purple moor-grass (Molinia caerulea) has been reported as a larval host in Scotland. Purple reedgrass is rare in Minnesota and purple moor-grass does not grow here. There are bromes both native and introduced in the state as well as the native Canada bluejoint grass (Calamagrostis canadensis). It is likely that Carterocephalus palaemon larvae feed on other grass species besides the few mentioned in the literature.

 

SOURCES
Arctic Skipper Carterocephalus palaemon (Pallas, 1771) at BAMONA.

Carterocephalus palaemon (Pallas, 1771) at the Bourgogne-Nature website.

Chequered Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) at the Sottish Natural Heritage website.

Species Carterocephalus palaemon – Arctic Skipper – Hodges#3982 at the Bug Guide website.

 

Some Possible New State Records

 

One thing that often happens when doing an inventory of plants and animals in a particular region such as in the county where I live is the discovery of species not previously known from there. This has been my experience with plants in Carlton County beginning in 1992. Back then there was only Ownbey’s and Morley’s Vascular Plants of Minnesota: A Checklist and Atlas for plant species occurrences by county for Minnesota. The internet has greatly expanded the available information on species distributions and this holds for plants, lichens, and many kinds of animals such as moths. Many museums and universities have searchable databases listing taxa by region or even county level often on maps showing where these species have been found. Some even provide historical data such as when a particular species was seen and/or collected.

Unfortunately, finding a volume like Ownbey and Morley for moths even for a state seems pretty much out of the question. There are other sources of data on moth species occurrences although their reports may not be complete. The first two sources I rely on are the maps at the Moth Photographers Group (MPG) and Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA). Maps at MPG are based on archived specimens and are accurate to the county level. BAMONA is based on citizen-scientist contributions and these are accurate to township level. The weakness in both of these sources is the human factor. For both MPG and BAMONA there seem to be more records near larger population centers where colleges and universities, and hence entomologists and/or interested amateurs, are located compared to areas of the country with smaller populations and distant from colleges.

The third source I look to for Minnesota moths is a Minnesota DNR report (A Survey of Lepidoptera in Three Priority Areas of the Minnesota State Parks System) published in 2009. This report lists all the moth (768) and butterfly (72) species found in thirteen Minnesota state parks between southeastern and northeastern Minnesota over a two-year period. Jay Cooke State Park, which is in Carlton County in northeastern Minnesota, was not included in the survey. The purpose of the survey was to determine what other lepidopteran species might be affected if a Bt spraying program were initiated to control the introduced Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar dispar), a potential pest insect in the state. Thankfully, Bt was not used and a mating disrupting pheromone was instead.

I have not done a complete list of new species records for Carlton County because it does not matter as almost every moth I find is a new record for the county. However, as I add more species to the checklist I have noticed that some appear to be new records for the state. Four of these are shown in the photo gallery above. These are not the only ones just some of the most recent. Looking at the maps at MPG and BAMONA it quickly becomes clear that there is a deficit in the record of the lepidopteran fauna of Carlton County (not too unlike the record of the county’s flora). One could get the impression that there is little moth biodiversity here but that would be a mistake. As of June 15, I have photographed and identified almost 270 species of moths. Of these, 100 were photographed and identified this year over a two month period. Even more importantly all were taken on my property. What other species might be found in the oak-maple-basswood forests? Or the bogs? Or the cedar swamps?

 

SOURCES CITED

Ownbey, G. B., and T. Morley. (1991). Vascular plants of Minnesota: a checklist and atlas. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 320 pages.

Quinn, Edward M., and Danielson, Ron. (2009). A Survey of Lepidoptera in Three Priority Areas of the Minnesota State Parks System Final Report. 49 pages.

Species accounts at Butterflies and Moths of North America

Species accounts at Moth Photographers Group

More Moths

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Eight more moths for the checklist: Mint Root Borer (Fumibotys fumalis), Deceptive Snout Moth (Hypena deceptalis), Bronzy Macrochilo (Macrochilo orciferalis), Forage Looper (Caenurgina erechtea), Purple-backed Cabbageworm (Evergestis pallidata), White-banded Toothed Carpet (Epirrhoe alternata), Labrador Carpet (Xanthorhoe labradorensis), and Dark Marbled Carpet (Dysstroma citrata) bringing it to 161 species identified. There were three repeated names, a genus name with no species epithet, and one name from a set of photos misidentified as Xanthorhoe ferrugata but really Euphyia intermediata (already on the list). Those last two are members of the “Carpets” which because of their intricate patterns can be a challenge to differentiate. When the dust settled the actual number of species on April 05 was not 158 but 153. Adding these eight species on April 10 makes the total for the checklist 161 species.

Some Brief Facts

Mint Root Borer (Fumibotys fumalis) – not well liked wherever mint (Mentha spp.) is grown as its larvae feed on mint leaves and then as they get older on the roots and rhizomes.

Deceptive Snout Moth (Hypena deceptalis) – this moth confused me at first and I misidentified it as Gray-edged Hypena (Hypena madefactalis) which was wishful thinking on my part. After going over many photos of each species at Moth Photographers Group and Bug Guide it became clear my initial identification was wrong. The larvae of Deceptive Snout Moth feed on leaves of American basswood (Tilia americana). Members of Hypena are specialized feeders.

Bronzy Macrochilo (Macrochilo orciferalis) – food preferences of this species larvae are grasses but many others in the subfamily (Herminiinae, Litter Moths) eat dead leaves and leaf litter.

Forage Looper (Caenurgina erechtea) – larvae feed on a variety of grasses and legumes grown for forage and hay including alfalfa and the weedy plant giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida).

Purple-backed Cabbageworm (Evergestis pallidata) – possibly introduced to North America in the early 1800s the larvae of this moth feed on many members of the mustard family including bittercress (Cardamine spp.), cabbage, and horseradish.

White-banded Toothed Carpet (Epirrhoe alternata) – the larvae of this species feed on bedstraw (Galium spp.).

Labrador Carpet (Xanthorhoe labradorensis) – larvae feed on many species of woody and herbaceous plants

Dark Marbled Carpet (Dysstroma citrata) – larvae feed on blackberry, raspberry, and thimbleberry (Rubus spp.), alder (Alnus spp.),  willow (Salix spp.) and several other woody and herbaceous plant species.

The list keeps growing

Just before publishing this I added seven more species: Crambus leachellusAgriphila ruricolellusPalpita magniferalis, Monopis monachellaEpinotia lindana, and possibly Herpetogramma aeglealis and Dichomerus fistuca (these last two seem at least to be in the right genus) bringing the total to 168 species identified. The list keeps on growing as I sort through photos and to that list can be added 219 photos of yet to be identified species. Given that there are an estimated 1,500 to 2,200 moth species in Minnesota the possibility of 600 to 900 moth species in my county does not seem far-fetched. I hope to add another 100 species this summer as I explore new areas at night on my property (not just the porch) and search for moth larvae by day.

Corrections

In the April 05 post “Four new finds in the moth photo files and a rediscovery” I mentioned I had found Ancylis albacostana. It turns out I had not but instead had misidentified Capis curvata as that species. They are similar especially if the white band on the ends of the forewing is wide on C. curvata. A. albacostana is somewhat rare in northern Minnesota where I live so chances of finding it are small (but not impossible).

What I had previously thought was Toothed Brown Carpet (Xanthorhoe lacustrata) in an earlier version of this post is White-banded Toothed Carpet (Epirrhoe alternata).

 

SOURCES AND MORE INFORMATION

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

R. E. Berry and L. B. Coop (2000). Mint Root Borer Lepidoptera: Pyralidae Fumibotys fumalis. Publication No. IPPC E.01-01-1. Oregon State University, Department of Entomology and Integrated Plant Protection Center, Corvallis, Oregon. October 24, 2000.

E. M. Quinn and R. Danielson (2009). A Survey of Lepidoptera in Three Priority Areas of the Minnesota State Parks System Final Report. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources – Division of Parks and Trails. 49 pages.

Robinson, G. S., P. R. Ackery, I. J. Kitching, G. W. Beccaloni and L. M. Hernández (2010). HOSTS – A Database of the World’s Lepidopteran Hostplants. Natural History Museum, London. http://www.nhm.ac.uk/hosts.

J. Sogaard (2009). Moths and Caterpillars of the North Woods. Kollath+Stensaas Publishing. Duluth, MN. 276 pages.

D. Schweitzer, J. R. Garris, A. E. McBride, and J. A. M. (2014). The current status of forest Macrolepidoptera in northern New Jersey: evidence for the decline of understory specialists. Appendix D. Journal of Insect Conservation. Vol. 18, Issue 4, pages 561–571.

Species accounts at the Bug Guide website

Moth Photographers Group website (check out their Plate Series)

University of Alberta E.H. Strickland Entomological Museum website