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

Moth Checklist Update

 

Its been a busy month and a half of mothing so far with many new species and as well as returning species seen last summer. As of May 31 the moth checklist for 2018 is now at 57 species with a combined checklist for 2017 and 2018 of 225 species. There are also many new ones in the “Unknown Moths” file. The latest checklist additions, all observed between May 26 and May 31, are Argyrotaenia marianaHelcystogramma melanocarpaAcronicta morulaElaphria versicolorEucosma awemeana, Petrophora subaequaria, Acronicta interrupta, Ancylis albacostanaLeuconycta diphteroides, Ectropis crepusculariaOrthofidonia flavivenata, Palpita magniferalisBibarrambla allenellaPlagodis pulverariaMonopis monachella, Pero morrisonariaApotomis funereaSemioscopis packardella, Tacparia desertata, Hydriomena renunciata, and Galgula partita. Returning species include Caloptilia stigmatella, Pseudeustrotia carneolaEuphyia intermediata, Tetracis crocallata, Gluphisia septentrionalis, Prochoerodes lineola, Metanema determinata, Metanema inatomaria, Plutella xylostella, Clostera albosigma, Acronicta lobeliae, and Idia americalis.

 

A sparkling shiny new moth

 

Another micro-moth identified. This one is a Tinted Moth or White-headed Monopis Moth (Monopis monachella, Family Tineidae). It showed up under my porch light a few nights ago. From a distance it looks like a grain of burned rice but close up it is very beautiful with a white furry head and thorax, and dark purplish wings that are decorated with iridescent blue scales, a pearly white patch, and fringes at the the upturned end of the wing.

The genus Monopsis has some very unusual feeding preferences. Monopis moth larvae feed on a variety of substances that we do not commonly associate with moth caterpillars which by and large eat leaves or other live plant parts. Instead, Monopsis larvae feed on feathers, fur, wool, dried skin and other less digestible parts of animal carcasses, owl pellets, bird droppings, and carnivore scat. In a Korean study feathers were used to bait traps to catch two species of Monopsis. A species of Monopsis has also been discovered that lives in bat caves feeding on guano and other debris.

Taxonomy
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Tineoidea (Tubeworm, Bagworm, and Clothes Moths)
Family Tineidae (Clothes Moths, Fungus Moths)
Subfamily Tineinae
Genus/species Monopis monachella

Description
The following description is a summary after After Dietz (1905), Forbes (1923), Guo-Hua et al. (2011), and Bug Guide. Wings dark reddish brown (“purple black” in Guo-Hua et al. 2011) with ashy gray-brown spots, the costa trapezoidal, pearly white, extending from mid-wing to the tip, its edges diagonal. The diagonal edge of the costa encloses a translucent or vitreous circle which is typical of all Monopis. There are a few white scales are on the rounded wing tip. The head and thorax are white, antennae dark brown. Length approximately 5 mm.

Range
In the broad sense M. monachella has a near worldwide distribution. However, recent studies suggest that M. monachella is actually a collection of many morphologically similar looking species that can be reliably told apart only by DNA.

Larval Hosts
Larvae of M. monachella are reported to feed on animal remains that contain keratin (keratophagous) such as dried skin, feathers and other remains in bird nests, fur, wool and owl pellets which are the regurgitated bits of animals containing fur and bones an owl cannot digest. Some members of the genus are chitinophagous, that is, they can eat and digest fungi, the cell walls of which contain chitin, and the chitinous exoskeletons of arthropods. The larvae live in portable silken tubes.

 

SOURCES

Bong-Kyu Byun, Sat-Byul Shin, Yang-Seop Bae, Do Sung Kim, Yong Geun Choi. (2014). First discovery of a cave-dwelling Tineid moth (Lepidoptera, Tineidae) from East Asia. Journal of Forestry Research  25(3): 647-651.

Dietz, William G. (1905). Revision of the Genera and Species of the Tineid Subfamilies Amydrinae and Tineinae inhabiting North America. Transactions of the American Entomoligical Society, 31(1): 1-95 with six plates. Description of Monopis monachella on pages 30 to 33.

Dong-June Lee, Young-Don Ju, Ulziijargal Bayarsaikhan, Bo-Sun Park, Sol-Moon Na, Jae-Won Kim, Bong-Woo Lee, Yang-Seop Bae. (2016). First report on two species of genus Monopis (Lepidoptera, Tineidae) collected by feather trap in Korea. Journal of Asia-Pacific Biodiversity 9: 215-218

Forbes, William T. M. (1923). Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, 1923, Memoir #68: Lepidoptera of New York and Neighboring States. Description of Monopis monachella on page 132.

Guo-Hua Huang, Liu-Sheng Chen, Toshiya Hirowatari, Yoshitsugu Nasu, and Ming Wang. (2011). A revision of the Monopis monachella species complex (Lepidoptera: Tineidae) from China. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 163: 1-14.

Genus Monopis at Bug Guide web site.

Monopis monachella at HOSTS web site.

Monopis monachella at NIC.FUNET.FI web site.

Monopsis monachella at Svenska fjärilar web site.

Species Monopis monachella – White-headed Monopis – Hodges#0418 at Bug Guide web site.