Mad-Dog Skullcap Moth

I recently spent a month conducting grueling fieldwork in the swamps of southeastern Massachusetts.  As I fought my way through endless thickets of sweet pepperbush and greenbrier, I occasionally paused to collect leaf mines that were new to me.  On August 7, this curled-up mad-dog skullcap (Lamiaceae: Scutellaria lateriflora) leaf caught my eye:

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I decided to stuff it into a vial, I suppose as a consolation prize after failing to find the little-known mad-dog skullcap leafminers I was hoping to see.  Eleven days later, a distinctive little moth appeared in the vial.

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Knowing what the host plant was, I quickly identified the moth as Prochoreutis inflatella, known as the “skullcap skeletonizer moth.”  It belongs to the family Choreutidae, the “metalmark moths,” and this moth is the first representative of this family I’ve encountered.

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Metalmark moths are supposed to make distinctive cocoons, but the leaf was too far gone to open it up and have a look.  I found the pupal skin lying outside the crumpled leaf.

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I had added a fresh little sprig of mad-dog skullcap to the vial in case the larva needed more food, and some of the flowers were opening on the day the moth emerged.

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About Charley Eiseman

I am a freelance naturalist, endlessly fascinated by the interconnections of all the living and nonliving things around me. I am the lead author of Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates (Stackpole Books, 2010), and continue to collect photographs and information on this subject. These days I am especially drawn to galls, leaf mines, and other plant-insect interactions.
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7 Responses to Mad-Dog Skullcap Moth

  1. willardw@comcast.net says:

    Beautiful, Charley. Thanks so much. Wendy Willard

  2. In doing some macro photography, I found a photo at a FB site that I cannot copy to share here. It shows three 1/4 inch long caterpillar-like shapes sitting on a green leaf with feathery edges and blobby little heads that are clear and gelatinous looking. I may be all wet, but slime molds don’t seem to have anything similar nor do jelly molds. Just wondering, could this be some stage of a moth metamorphosis? I am clueless. Google has let me down!

    ps These little guys are clear, no color!, The finder was in Mississippi and the post was just a few days ago. He reported they were gone when he returned today.https://sphotos-a-lga.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/p480x480/1235298_10151815282959929_774619218_n.jpg If this works, maybe you will see it! Ifyou have a Facebook account it is on the Point and Shoot Macro page. Look for entries from Monday(Aug26) and Little Rickey is the poster’s name. Thanks for reading this and hope you can find an answer!

  3. Thanks, Charley. You are an absolutely amazing scientist, so it will be good having you on our macro Facebook page. Is there anyone else we can post this picture to? I am dying of curiousity, can’t you tell?

    • If it was taken in North America, it could be posted on BugGuide, or no matter where it was taken, I could post it here as one of my “monthly mysteries.” Maybe you could suggest that to Little Rickey–I wasn’t able to find the photo by scrolling, and when I click your link I see the photo but not any of the info or comments.

      • I have FB’d him and he has acquiesced using the picture, so I think that would be great! The only info was that he is in Mississippi, they were about 1/2 inch long, on a leaf, gone the next day. Do we need anything else?

  4. Actually, he does have other angles. I’ll contact him again.

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