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Mystery Spring Moth

Posted by misssherry Z8/9MS (My Page) on
Thu, Mar 1, 12 at 15:31

My order came today from Mail Order Natives, so I've been outside a while potting them up. I've put them in my garden, "behind bars", where they can gain enough size to survive possible deer browsing before I plant them out. Or survive little dog trampling, since I plan to plant at least two of them inside the fence around the front of my house. Speaking of my little dogs -

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I saw the first duskywing of the year, a couple of cloudless sulphurs, a sleepy orange, a cute little yellow, and I released my first black swallowtail of the year, a male. My crop of BST chrysalides go back to the summer of last year, as I recall, so they're pretty old. I'm always amazed at how long BSTs can stay in their chrysalis!
I also saw a large, newly emerged looking red admiral, so it's probably a female. Maybe she'll find the young false nettle sprouts!
I also saw one of the bright orange moths that I typically see in large numbers in early spring, then don't see them at all for the rest of the year. I've tried to get pictures of them before, but when they land, always on the ground, and I approach them, they fly off. I got this one's picture by using the zoom on my camera. The top side is relatively plain, so the undersides must be bright orange - you can see a little of the bright coloring peeking out -
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I've been looking through pictures of small moths, but can't find one like this one, so if anybody knows what it is, please let me know.
I saw a male pipevine swallowtail patrolling my driveway/road, so it looks like the PVSs have made themselves at home - maybe eggs/cats will soon follow.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Mystery Spring Moth

I'd say it is in the genus Euchlaena. I want to say it is Euchlaena serrata but the hind wings on your moth seem to have a smooth outer edge while the Internet pics of E. serrata have an edge with scallops and points. One of my latest books, Moths & Caterpillars of the North Woods, has a pic with hind wings closer to yours. I did finally find an Internet pic where the hindwing shape closely resembled yours but the colors were nowhere close. A lot of variation in the species of this genus.

Here is a link that might be useful: Euchlaena start in row 14 with two E. serrata

RE: Mystery Spring Moth

Metarranthis obfirmaria - Yellow-washed Metarranthis

You were on the right geometrid plate, KC, but misssherry's variation threw you. It jumped out at me from an old Moth Photographer's Group plate.

bugguide page showing variations of M. obfirmaria

RE: Mystery Spring Moth

I sure would not have figured it out from the picture on the plate I linked. Very different coloring. No yellow to be washed. ;)

With your ID, I now see it in Covell: plate 53. I looked there first but missed it. I now wander off with my head hung in shame. :D

RE: M. obfirmaria

I was just scrolling the page you linked. Just noticed that that page tells you the Covell plate # too. I don't remember seeing Covell references on Bug Guide before but I probably was not thinking Covell either. I see too that one of the hostplants is chokecherry. Maybe if the deer quit eating my chokecherry, I might get some of these moths. I just checked the moths I collected last year and I don't have one of these guys, at least not one I've pinned.

RE: Mystery Spring Moth

You guys are amazing, thanks! I think I saw that plate in my Covell book and missed it, too, KC. It's good to have the mystery of the orange/yellow early spring moths solved - I've been wondering for years what they were! They're a harbinger of spring around here.
I've got all three of the listed hosts in abundance, well, actually I've got wild black cherry instead of chokecherry, but they're both Prunus.
Thanks again!

RE: Mystery Spring Moth

Well, pick up your head--moth IDs are fun and you can't win them all. The bugguide page also cites the Photographer's Group plate. This moth comes pretty early in the season, easy to miss collecting it.

For many small moths, wing shape and other structures trump coloration when IDing.

I'm surprised no one has ever posted an image of another early moth, Archiearis infans, "The Infant" (named for spring season in its infancy). They fly by day, sometimes as a swarm.

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