Night-time Leps Early Too

Toothed phigalia photo’d by Stephen Mason

Stephen Mason, now at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, reports that nocturnal leps seem to be flying early this year, just as their day-flying, better-known (but far less numerous) relatives have been:

The first geometrid moth I see emerging each year is toothed phigalia (Phigalia denticulata.) Typically, I see the first males during the middle of March. This year, however, they started coming to light around the middle of February. What makes this species unusual among moths is that the females have vestigial wings and cannot fly. The females are extremely difficult to find.

White-headed prominent, photo by Stephen Mason

A new personal record for me in March this year was the white-headed prominent (Symmerista albifrons) in the family Notodontidae. The long white mark running along the leading edge of the forewing makes it an easy ID — and makes the species an eye-catcher for people mothing in early spring. Although the literature indicates they sometimes fly in March, I typically do not see them until April.

Arge tiger moth, photo’d by Stephen Mason

The best early-season find for me so far this year, and potentially the most significant, were three individual arge tiger moths (Grammia arge). As caterpillars, these moths feed on prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa), among other things. According to both The Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Moths and Tietz’s Lepidoptera of Pennsylvania (compiled by specimen records at the entomology collections of Penn State, the Carnegie Museum, and the Academy of Natural Science), this species does not fly until April. I have personally never found one before late April. The individual photographed was flying in the middle of March — very exciting to see. Tiger moths in March? Who would have expected it?


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