Introducing Fenusa julia

The summer before last, Julia and I took a trip out to Colorado and some Midwestern prairies, partly to visit some friends and partly to fill in some gaps in our leafminer explorations (which had taken us all around the perimeter of the US, but had so far missed the whole area bounded by Ohio and California, South Dakota and Texas). One day we were wandering along a creek near Aspen when Julia spotted some mines on a wild rose, which I later determined to be Rosa woodsii.


They were clearly sawfly larvae, but I was sure there were no known rose-mining sawflies in North America, since there are only 30 or so species to keep track of. So we collected a dozen of them, and by the end of the day they were already starting to exit their mines.


Fortunately, I was prepared with a jar of soil for them to burrow into, and within a few days they had all done so. I refrigerated the jar over the winter as described here, and a month after I took it back out of the fridge, seven adults emerged.


I sent them off to Dave Smith to examine, and they turned out to be most similar to Fenusa ewaldi, a species he had described just a few years earlier, reared from larvae mining rose leaves in Russia. The two species look pretty much the same, but he found differences in the antennae, eyes, wings, and ovipositor. Julia had made me promise not to name any flies after her, but she never said anything about sawflies, so I decided to call the new species Fenusa julia. The paper describing it appeared online today, in the so-called April issue of Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington*.

Just like Scolioneura vaccinii, which we discovered on our first big leafminer road trip, Fenusa julia is the first native member of its genus to be found in North America. There are also three introduced European species here: F. dohrnii on alder, F. pumila
on birch, and F. ulmi on elm.

* Smith, David R. and Charles S. Eiseman. 2017. A new species of Fenusa (Hymenoptera: Tenthredinidae) mining leaves of Rosa woodsii Lindl. (Rosaceae) in North America. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 119(2):233-238.


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Cocoon Within a Cocoon Within a Cocoon

The diamondback moth (Plutellidae: Plutella xylostella) is a European species that is now found all across North America, the larvae feeding on various plants in the mustard family (Brassicaceae). Apparently it’s considered a pretty serious pest, but I’d take it over Cabbage White caterpillars (Pieridae: Pieris rapae) or Cross-striped Cabbageworms (Crambidae: Evergestis rimosalis) any day.


In fact, I was excited to find its tiny leaf mines in our broccoli leaves a few years ago, after stumbling on the fact in the course of my research on leafminers that this species starts out as one.


The mines are just a few millimeters long, barely larger than the bodies of the first-instar caterpillars. In the backlit photos below, you can see a larva swiveling its head to feed, keeping its tail end at the entrance to dispose of its frass.


The larvae soon abandon their mines to feed externally on the lower leaf surface. The one below is face to face with the shed head capsule from an earlier instar, which it has carefully eaten around. The rest of the exuviae are to the larva’s right (below it in the photo).


Only when nearly full-grown do the larvae eat little holes all the way through the leaf.


(Incidentally, the yellowing leaf is a result of my having picked it to raise the larvae, not damage caused by the larvae.) When mature, the larva spins an open-mesh cocoon, and the green pupa is plainly visible inside.


When you see a solid cocoon within the open-mesh cocoon, as in this one on peppergrass (Lepidium virginicum), that’s the work of an ichneumon wasp (Ichneumonidae: Campopleginae: Diadegma insulare) that was developing inside the caterpillar all along. After the caterpillar spins its cocoon, the wasp larva finishes devouring the caterpillar, then spins its own cocoon to pupate inside.


Here’s the wasp that emerged from that cocoon:


Thanks to Andrew Bennett at the Canadian National Collection of Insects, I just learned that this wasp is Isdromas lycaenae (Ichneumonidae: Cryptinae), a hyperparasitoid that fed as a larva on the parasitoid larva. I can only assume it spun its own cocoon within the Diadegma cocoon within the diamondback moth cocoon.

Here’s a Diadegma that emerged from the cocoon of a leaf-mining moth (Gracillariidae: Parectopa thermopsella) I was trying to rear a couple of years ago. No idea what species it might be, if it even has a name; there are 41 described Diadegma species in North America, but there are no keys to identify them.


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Hiding in Plain Sight

…would be a suitable title for any of the posts about tiny bugs that I regularly write here, I guess, but it seems especially appropriate in this case. The story begins in September 2012, when occasional user Greg Dodge posted this photo of blotchy white leaf mines on white clover (Fabaceae: Trifolium repens) he found in Durham, North Carolina. They didn’t seem to match any mines known from this common plant, so the few of us who pay attention to such things were intrigued. He put them in a vial, and eleven days later, he posted photos of the adult moths that emerged. The moths appeared to be Porphyrosela desmodiella (Gracillariidae), a relatively straightforward identification since this was the only species of Porphyrosela in North America. Here is an adult of P. desmodiella that I reared from its namesake, Desmodium (tick trefoil), in Arizona (also in the fall of 2012, as it happens).

Here is the leaf mine on Desmodium, as viewed from above and below:

This is a typical “underside tentiform” mine, which starts as a flat blotch on the lower leaf surface, then the larva spins  silk inside it, which contracts as it dries and causes the leaf to buckle and form a “tent”.  Porphyrosela desmodiella is known to mine leaves of several legumes in addition to Desmodium, so it didn’t seem out of the question that it should mine clover leaves on occasion. The problem was, P. desmodiella always makes underside mines, whereas these clover mines were on the upper surface.

After I moved Greg’s photos to the Gracillariidae section for further contemplation, he commented: “The adult moth seems to be Porphyrosela desmodiella. The question is, why is the mine, or tent, that I photo’d different from what is described for this species here on BugGuide, that is, on the upper surface of the leaf not the underside? Although I found several spent pupal cases attached to the vial in which the moths were raised, I did locate one within one of the curled up leaflets. Interestingly, I found this site with a photo of a tent which looks remarkably like the one that I photo’d but which belongs to Porphyrosela minuta from southern South America. Anybody?”

Porphyrosela minuta was described in 1953 from specimens reared from white clover in Argentina. The paper Greg found documented the life history of this moth on white clover in Uruguay. It is not known to use any other host, which is odd since the moth is apparently native to South America and the plant is native to Europe (where no species of Porphyrosela are known to occur).

Terry Harrison quickly responded that it would be great if Greg could send the specimens to Don Davis at the Smithsonian so that he could examine them. Alas, Greg reported that “they all flew off except one which was unfortunately, and unintentionally, spread across the inside of one of the vials. I may try to rear more.”

Two months later, Thomas Wilson posted photos he had taken of similar leaf mines in Baltimore, Maryland, a few weeks before Greg found them in North Carolina. When Thomas left a comment on Greg’s post pointing this out, Greg replied: “I had planned on shipping off a specimen of an adult to Don Davis for identification but the only specimen that I had was a smashed individual that was later eaten by a roach (my fault completely, I left it sitting around too long in a vial with the lid partially open). I tried to rear more but was unsuccessful. Maybe next season.”

Nothing more was said about the subject for three years. Suddenly, in August 2015, these Porphyrosela mines on white clover were found by Domingo Zungri of Roseville, California; Mike Palmer of Stillwater, Oklahoma; and Tracy Feldman of Durham, North Carolina. I encouraged them all to collect lots of mines, not wanting to hear any more stories about the one(s) that got away or were smooshed and then eaten by roaches. I also told my friend Eric LoPresti at the University of California (Davis) to keep an eye out for them. Mike, Tracy, and Eric all came through; Tracy also found them where he teaches in Laurinburg, not far from the South Carolina border, and although Eric didn’t see any in California, he happened to be in Durham that month and stuffed a sandwich bag full of the mined leaves.

As a result, Porphyrosela minuta is now properly documented in North America. Voucher specimens are deposited at the Smithsonian and in the Canadian National Collection, and our paper* was published in January. (The print version finally showed up in my mailbox yesterday, which reminded me that I should write this post.)

When J. F. G. Clarke described Porphyrosela minuta as a new species, he stated that it was extremely similar to P. desmodiella, and apart from details of the genitalia, the only difference he noted was that P. minuta has a black terminal line on the forewing that P. desmodiella lacks. His description was based on a single male and four females. With several times that many specimens in front of me, I noticed another difference in the wing patterns of the two species. In the reared examples of P. desmodiella I examined, the second fascia (stripe) on the forewing was approximately perpendicular with the wing margins, bending somewhat so that it paralleled the first fascia toward the costal margin (the bottom of the wing when a live moth is at rest). The space between the fasciae along the costal margin was about 20–30% larger than on the dorsal margin. In contrast, on P.
minuta the first and second fasciae are angled equally but in opposite directions, so that the space between them on the costal margin is about twice that on the dorsal margin.

That may sound like a subtle distinction, but take a look at the two side by side and I think you’ll see (P. desmodiella above, and P. minuta below):

The black markings are much bolder on this P. minuta than on this P. desmodiella, but unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be a consistent difference, and that also goes for the terminal line mentioned by Clarke. The difference in the angling of the second fascia, on the other hand, seems to be entirely consistent.

Although I’ve now coauthored several new insect species, I have always just contributed the parts about the larval biology and natural history, so finding this difference sort of felt like my first real foray into taxonomy. Having made this little discovery, I took a look at the photos of Porphyrosela desmodiella on, and was surprised to find that all of them—with the sole exception of one that MJ Hatfield had reared from an underside tentiform mine on Lespedeza (bush clover) in Iowa—were in fact P. minuta! Once I realized this, it turned out that the first photo of P. minuta in the US was this one of an adult found in Louisiana in June 2008. Tracy remembers seeing the mines and an emerging adult sometime between 2000 and 2002 in the same lawn in Durham, NC, where Eric collected them in August 2015, but he was unaware of their significance at the time.

So is this some terrible new invasive species that has swept across the country? I don’t see why anyone should be bothered about it; there’s plenty of clover to go around, and clover isn’t native either. And the leaf-mining larvae are providing food for at least three species of parasitoid eulophid wasps, which as far as I know are all native:

Hemiptarsenus sp.

Sympiesis sericeicornis (I’ve reared this one from P. desmodiella as well)

Pnigalio coloni

As far as I’m concerned, anything that increases the biodiversity of lawns—an all too dominant feature of our landscape—is a good thing. I’ll be curious to hear if anyone finds these clover leaf mines anywhere else in the US. Right after our paper was published, I heard from someone in southern Brazil that P. minuta has been found there as well, for a total of three adjacent South American countries, plus the five scattered states in the US mentioned above, where this moth is known to occur. I would love to know what its original host plant was in South America, and how it managed suddenly to become established from coast to coast in North America before anyone noticed it.

* Eiseman, Charles S., Tracy S. Feldman, Eric F. LoPresti, and Michael W. Palmer. 2017. First North American records of Porphyrosela minuta Clarke (Lepidoptera: Gracillariidae), with notes on its native congener, P. desmodiella (Clemens). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 119(1):18-23.

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More Evening Primrose Moths

Two years ago I wrote about the striking pink and yellow moths I found resting on evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) flowers by my mailbox, and how I later found the caterpillars feeding on the young seedpods. That same summer, I found two other kinds of moth larvae feeding on the evening primrose plants along my driveway. One was a leafminer I had reared before from the sundrops (O. pilosella) in my mother’s garden, but hadn’t noticed on evening primrose before.


Like nearly all leaf mines on the evening primrose family (Onagraceae), these linear ones on Oenothera are made by a species of Mompha—in this case M. argentimaculella.


Mompha argentimaculella was supposed to be the only leafminer on Oenothera, so I was surprised when one day I noticed distinctly different mines on the evening primrose along my driveway. Instead of narrow, linear mines with frass deposited all along their length, these were blotches with all the frass packed at the beginning.


In one case I found two larvae whose mines had merged.


The reddish larvae were superficially similar to the Mompha larvae…


…but the adults turned out to be something entirely different: Aristotelia isopelta (Gelechiidae).


There was no published host or natural history information available for this species, nor was there any reason to suspect an Aristotelia, since members of this genus are normally leaftiers. However, when I sent a specimen to Jean-François Landry to deposit in the Canadian National Collection, he informed me that they have other specimens reared from evening primrose in Quebec in the 1960s. Also, Terry Harrison told me he once had this moth emerge from a batch of leaves from California that also contained Mompha leaf mines. Terry’s leaves were not evening primrose but Epilobium, another member of the same family. Epilobium species are known as “willow-herbs”, apparently because of their willow-like leaves.


Their seeds are also dispersed on the wind by tufts of fluff in a way somewhat similar to willow seeds. The long, curved, empty seedpods give the dead plants a distinctive look in the winter:


That same summer I was finding all the interesting evening primrose moths along my driveway, I was working in wetlands all over western Massachusetts and kept finding leaf mines on a common wetland plant, Epilobium ciliatum.


These certainly looked Mompha-like, but the only Epilobium miner known to occur in eastern North America was M. epilobiella. This is an introduced European species that starts out as a leafminer, but older larvae feed externally in clumps of webbed leaves. I collected a bunch of larvae, and they continued mining leaves throughout their development. Here you can see one larva spinning a cocoon on the underside of a leaf while two more, nearly mature larvae mine toward it (as you can also see in the above photos, these larvae mine belly-up):


The adults were pretty little orange-marked moths:


Jean-François and Terry concurred that they were Mompha locupletella, a species previously known only from Europe. Unlike M. epilobiella, however, this appears to be a native Holarctic species that simply was missed by earlier microlepidopterists—or at least, no one had gotten around to publish anything about it. There are at least a couple of other Mompha species in this category, another being M. raschkiella, which feeds on fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium), a plant formerly placed in the genus EpilobiumMompha raschkiella was described from Europe in 1839 and has been found all across Canada, but its existence in North America wasn’t published until 2010. For details of many other Mompha species that have yet to be documented or even named, we’ll have to wait for Terry’s big publication on the genus, which is still some years off. But in the meantime, I summarized what is known about the leafminers of the evening primrose family in a paper that was published recently alongside the one describing Zygoneura calthella:

Eiseman, Charles S. 2016. North American leafminers (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae, Momphidae) on the evening primrose family (Onagraceae): new host, parasitoid, and distributional records. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 118(4):510-518.

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Marsh Marigold Menagerie

In the spring of 2013, I wrote about the four-toed salamander surveys I was conducting at the time, which involved crawling around in swamps all over northwestern Massachusetts. On June 1, the last day of the survey, Julia tagged along, and one of the swamps we visited had a large population of marsh marigold (Ranunculaceae: Caltha palustris). The plants were probably all fruiting by that point, but this is what they would have looked like a month or so earlier:


We noticed that many of the plants had brown markings that appeared to be leaf mines, radiating from the point where the petiole attached.

dsc_0407 A little investigating revealed that the brown streaks continued down the petiole, and in some cases into the stem.


Julia split open a few of the petioles and found elongate, black-headed larvae feeding inside.


I recognized them as being some sort of “lower” fly (Nematocera), which among the leafminers I knew of would indicate some sort of midge (Chironomidae). No other leaf-mining fly larvae have well-defined head capsules like this.


We stuffed a bunch of the mined leaves and petioles into a bag to see what would come out. The first adult appeared six days later.


It was not a midge, but some sort of dark-winged fungus gnat (Sciaridae). I hadn’t seen any references to leaf-mining sciarids in North America, but a little online search revealed that a few are known in Europe. As luck would have it, no one in the US studies sciarids, but I found someone who was willing to take a crack at identifying my specimens, so I sent them off once they had finished emerging. In the meantime, a number of other insects had appeared in the bag.

In addition to the thirteen sciarids, there were eight of these frit flies (Chloropidae)…


…twelve of these scuttle flies (Phoridae)…


…three of these weird little ichneumon wasps…


…and this fruit fly (Drosophilidae).


All of these insects had apparently emerged from the tunnels excavated by the sciarid larvae in the plant tissue. Their larvae were parasitoids or predators of the sciarid larvae, or else they were scavengers, feeding on the dead plant tissue or possibly the waste products of the sciarid larvae. There had also been some beetle larvae feeding on the surface of the leaves:


Curious to see what they turned out to be, I hadn’t picked them off when we were collecting the mined leaves. After two weeks, they crawled away from the leaves and pupated…


…and I ended up with five of these adult beetles:


The beetles proved to be the easiest to identify. They were Prasocuris boreella (Chrysomelidae), which had been collected once before from marsh marigold, but apparently no one had ever found the larvae and reared them before.

I sent the other insects to various specialists, but I hadn’t heard back from anyone yet by the next spring, and the person with the sciarids didn’t respond when I inquired about them. So when I encountered more of the mines while doing wetland plant work in June 2014, I collected them to see if I could rear some more. I collected marsh marigold samples from two sites, and succeeded in rearing another seven or eight sciarids from each. I also ended up with another fruit fly, eleven more frit flies (five from one site and six from the other), and this braconid wasp:


I asked Ray Gagné, the gall midge specialist, if he knew of anyone who studies dark-winged fungus gnats, and he put me in touch with Frank Menzel, a German, who referred me to Kai Heller, another German, who was happy to help. So off to Germany some of the new flies went, and before long Kai had identified them as Zygoneura calthae, a species that had been described from Finland in 1960 and was not known to occur in North America. The collection data for the type specimen included “Larven und Puppen im Blattstiel von Caltha palustris“: larvae and pupae in the petiole of marsh marigold. Nothing seems to have been published about the species since then.

I wanted to write something up for publication about the discovery of this species in North America, but first I needed to round up identifications of all the associated insects, which took another year or so.

Terry Wheeler and Julia Mlynarek reported back that my three sets of frit flies all represented the same undescribed species of Elachiptera. Julia is working on a revision of this genus, so she will give this fly a name sooner or later. My impression is that it is not a species either Terry or Julia had seen before, but maybe some will turn up in museums by the time the revision is complete. Most Elachiptera species seem to have larvae that feed on decomposing plant tissue damaged by other insects. This one seems to have a special relationship with marsh marigold, if not Zygoneura.

Brian Brown and Emily Hartop identified the scuttle flies as Megaselia limburgensis. Interestingly, this species has been reared in Europe in association with an agromyzid fly that bores in marsh marigold petioles. Hering* stated that “strange mine off-shoots” from the petiole were constructed in the leaf blade, and he wasn’t sure whether these were made by the agromyzid or the scuttle fly. These sound suspiciously like the leaf mines of Zygoneura, but apparently he didn’t find any associated sciarids.

The ichneumon wasps now reside in the British Museum of Natural History, where Gavin Broad identified them to the genus Neurateles. Two described species are known to occur in North America, but they more likely belong to one of several undescribed species. Neurateles is in the subfamily Orthocentrinae, which seems to be mostly made up of fungus gnat parasitoids.

The fruit fly, Rick Lapoint informed me, was Scaptomyza pallida, a very common, cosmopolitan species that feeds on decomposing plant tissue.

Joseph Fortier identified the braconid wasp as a species of Ephedrus (Aphidiinae), indicating that it must have emerged from some unseen, mummified aphid on the plant surface rather than having anything to do with the sciarid mines.

Having collected all of this information, I was now ready to write my paper. This past February, I wrote to Kai Heller with a quick question regarding where Zygoneura calthae had been found besides the original collection site in Finland. When he responded, he mentioned that DNA barcoding had shown my specimens “to be different genetically from the European ones by more than 6%. Additonally they look a bit different. It may be possible, that two different species or subspecies are present.”

I thanked him for this bit of information, and remarked that it agreed with my suspicion that this is a native species rather than a recent introduction (which should closely match a European population). He wrote back and said that he had rechecked the DNA results, and in fact the difference was nearly 10%: unquestionably a new species. So I put off submitting the paper for a little longer, as Kai wrote up a description of the species and Björn Rulik wrote up the DNA analysis. I decided to name it Zygoneura calthella, which seemed fitting for a species that’s pretty much the same as Z. calthae but a little smaller. There are also some subtle differences in the male genitalia between the two.

Our paper** describing Zygoneura calthella, along with a review of insects known to feed on marsh marigold, was published at the beginning of November.

* Hering, Erich Martin. 1951. Biology of the Leaf Miners. Junk, the Hague, Netherlands.

** Eiseman, Charles S., Kai Heller, and Björn Rulik. 2016. A new leaf-mining dark-winged fungus gnat (Diptera: Sciaridae), with notes on other insect associates of marsh marigold (Ranunculaceae: Caltha palustris). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 118(4):519-532.

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Quality Control

On June 22, I was doing botanical work in a shrub swamp in Southbridge, Massachusetts when I found this 5.5-mm larva on the underside of a highbush blueberry (Ericaceae: Vaccinium corymbosum) leaf:


I find little tents like this from time to time on various trees and shrubs, and I’ve always assumed they’re the work of Machimia tentoriferella (Depressariidae), since that’s what it says on page 219 of Tracks & Sign of Insects. You can’t trust everything you read though, even if it’s something you wrote yourself, so I decided to take this opportunity to verify my assumption. I stuck the leaf in one of the little vials I carry in my backpack everywhere I go.

By July 3, the larva had grown to 8.5 mm and had spun its fourth tent on the same leaf. It had done some nibbling at the edges of the leaf in addition to its characteristic skeletonizing at either end of the tents.


Five days later, it  had grown another millimeter and was eating large holes in the leaf.


On July 25, it had reached 11.5 mm and was still working on the original leaf, which had turned completely brown at this point.


By August 24, feeding on a fresh leaf, it had reached 16 mm and had developed a couple of yellow longitudinal stripes—hence the name “gold-striped leaftier.”


That was the last time I photographed it, but it was still feeding into early September. I never imagined that rearing a little micro-moth would take all summer. On September 28, the adult emerged, confirming that it was what I had assumed it to be.


It had pupated inside a tightly folded leaf. At no point was it actually a leaftier, which is a term reserved for larvae that use silk to fasten two or more leaves together.


The HOSTS Database records Machimia tentoriferella from maples (Acer spp.), birches (Betula spp.), hickory (Carya), walnuts (Juglans spp.), chestnut (Castanea dentata), beech (Fagus grandifolia), oaks (Quercus spp.), balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera), basswood (Tilia americana), elms (Ulmus spp.), apple (Malus), cherry/plum (Prunus spp.), mountain-ash (Sorbus), true ashes (Fraxinus spp.), lilac (Syringa vulgaris), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), dogwoods (Cornus spp.), and viburnum. If that is a complete list of published host records (which it probably isn’t), this rearing from blueberry is the first recorded instance of M. tentoriferella using a host in the heath family (Ericaceae).

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Life in a Monkeyflower Stem

I’m slowly making my way through all the photos I took this year, and I just finished August 6. That was the day of Julia’s family’s annual BioBlitz at Deep Woods Farm, their land in southeastern Ohio. A funny thing happened as Julia and I were heading back for dinner after the day’s exploration. We were walking past a little patch of monkeyflower (Phrymaceae: Mimulus ringens) that had popped up in an opening in the forest created when some trees blew down a few years ago…


…when something made me say, “if I were a fly, I’d mine the stems of monkeyflower.” There is no fly known to mine in the stems of monkeyflower (or in the leaves, for that matter), but just for the heck of it I stopped and took a look. It took only a moment to spot the first mine:


Since I was pretty sure this was something unknown to science, we of course had to delay dinner a little bit and spend a few minutes scouring the plants for larvae and pupae. We found several; here is the puparium of a larva that did its last bit of feeding in the midrib of a leaf:


At the far left end you can see its little black spiracular horns (breathing structures) poking out through the leaf epidermis. I’ll tell you more about these flies some other time, but the reason I’m bringing this up now is just to explain how we came to be closely examining monkeyflower stems, when Julia noticed that some of them were weakened toward the base. She broke one at its weak point and discovered a caterpillar inside:


The caterpillar had been busily converting the inside of the stem to mushy poop.


I figured that while we were collecting monkeyflower stems, we might as well see if we could rear this caterpillar.

The next day, the caterpillar had popped out of its stem, and it seemed uninterested in trying to enter another stem.


I had never tried to rear a stem-boring caterpillar before, but last summer when we visited MJ Hatfield in Iowa, she showed us how she was rearing all sorts of Papaipema (Noctuidae) caterpillars by offering them chunks of carrot to bore into. I wasn’t sure if this was a Papaipema, but I didn’t know what else to try, so I put it in a jar of soil with a carrot. It happily got to work turning the carrot to orange mush.


Weeks passed, and the carrot turned brown and shriveled down to the soil. When I put all my bugs into the fridge to overwinter at the beginning of November, there was no sign of an adult moth in the jar, and I was skeptical that the caterpillar had survived. Since I was running out of space in the fridge, I left that jar on a shelf in my office along with a few others that I considered to be lost causes.

When I came to the photos of the caterpillar just now, I decided to go and have a look in the jar, and when I unscrewed the lid this moth was waiting just below it, perched on a section of monkeyflower stem I had put in there along with the carrot:


I know next to nothing about noctuids, but I just browsed through the Papaipema pictures on, and this seems like a good match for P. cataphracta, the so-called “burdock borer.” The guide page states that “larvae bore in rhizomes and stems of aster, burdock, corn, cottonwood, iris, lily, sunflower, thistle, tomato, and other plants.” So it sounds like this species will bore into just about anything with a stem. A couple of other species look pretty similar to this, but they are apparently specialists on the aster family; there are around 50 species in this genus, and my impression is that most of them are host-specific.

BugGuide also says that adults of Papaipema cataphracta fly from August to October, but there is one example of an adult that was found out and about in New Jersey on November 7 under natural conditions. I couldn’t say when in the past three weeks this monkeyflower one emerged; it’s perfectly alive, but it seems pretty sleepy and uninterested in flying at this point.

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