Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Small World of Moths

Most of us instinctively focus on color when trying to identify a bug.  In this case, it led me down the wrong path.  Janet Haworth sent me this picture she took on the upper trail at Clifty Creek CA, Maries County, MO.  Coincidentally, I found an identical specimen along our road at Bull Mills the same day.

Net-winged beetle- Wikimedia

My first guess was it was a moth.  I tried for a quick and easy answer in Kaufman's Field Guide and it showed a net-winged beetle, Calopteron terminale, with a similar color and shape.  They are found on plants and may utilize sap while other sources say they are predaceous.  Their bright color advertises their bad taste and potential toxicity.

Notice the ridges in the soft wing cover.  On close inspection, the antennae had distinctive structures which also differed from our specimens. 

 Black-and-yellow Lichen Moth*
One of the sites mentioned the resemblance between the new-winged beetle and the black and yellow lichen moth, Lycomorpha pholus, so named because its caterpillar looks like lichen. It looked close in Peterson's Field Guide to Moths, but there was more black on the wings and the boundary was angled at 45 degrees rather than straight across. More important, pictures on showed tapered antennae with small notched segments.

The picture I chose was by Charles Schurch Lewallen and I was startled to see it was taken in Okmulgee, OK where my mother was born in 1903.  Small world!

One site mentioned it could be confused with the orange-patched smoky moth, Pyromorpha dimidiataI looked it up on and the first picture I looked at - another small world - was by a friend and fellow mycology nut, Jon Rapp who in his spare time has contributed 890 pictures to Bugguide.  His picture plainly shows the distinctive antennae seen on Janet's specimen.  Diagnosis made!

Orange-patched Smoky Moth- Jon Rapp
However, as Yogi Berra said, "It ain't over till its over."  This moth has only been confirmed once in Missouri, up in Pulaski County.  This doesn't mean it is rare, just that no one else has reported it in our area.  I have sent this in to BAMONA for official confirmation and Phil Koenig, the Missouri reviewer has certified the identification.  If you have an interest in lepidoptera, I would encourage you to get out in the field with camera or net, or at least turn on your porch light and then head to BAMONA at

* Charles Schurch Lewallen has extensive animal and botanical photograph pages.

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