Evening Primrose Moth

One evening at the end of July, I went out to get the mail and met a beautiful pink and yellow moth resting on an evening primrose flower by the mailbox.

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I guessed that it was one of the 126 or so species of “flower moths” in the genus Schinia (Noctuidae; not to be confused with members of the family Scythrididae, which are also known as “flower moths”). Browsing through the species on BugGuide.net, I arrived at a clear match: Schinia florida, whose larvae are known to feed on evening primrose flower buds. Unfortunately, someone has given this species the common name “primrose moth,” despite the fact that evening primroses (Onagraceae: Oenothera) have nothing to do with primroses (Primulaceae: Primula).

The next evening I encountered what I took to be the same moth resting on a different flower, but comparing the photos now, I see that it was a different individual with less distinct yellow stripes within the pink area.

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I kept an eye on the plant for signs of these moths’ offspring, and two weeks later I spotted this caterpillar, which had bored a hole into a bud and was busily converting the unopened flower into a pile of yellow mush behind it.


This caterpillar had been busy.



There is plenty of evening primrose to go around, and I certainly don’t mind losing a few flowers later in the season if it means I get to have these moths around.

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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17 Responses to Evening Primrose Moth

  1. Lisa Rainsong says:

    Absolutely gorgeous photos, and it’s fascinating to see the caterpillar and how it feeds.

  2. Henry Hespenheide says:

    Nice little natural history story!

  3. Sue Cloutier says:

    I have yet to find one, but I keep looking! Thank you for the great photos and info.

  4. John Coffman says:

    I love your stories. I only have 2 in my collection. Both were traded from Orem, Utah. Do they range that far west?

  5. Pamela Polloni says:

    As a child I was introduced to the pink Evening Primrose Moth by my Mass. Audubon camp counselors. I’m glad to know it still has fans!

  6. Chris R says:

    I’ve never heard about or seen these. Thanks much! Really been enjoying your posts.

  7. willardw@comcast.net says:

    Happy New Year, Charley and thank you so much for your posts. Wendy Willard

  8. I think I ate one of these a couple years back. As wild food nut, I eat the flower buds of evening primrose. I was snacking on them when I realized just as I was swallowing that the taste and texture were off. It took biting into a couple others and spitting them out, until I figured out that I could tell the difference between the ones with and without caterpillars based the thickness of the flower’s stem.

    • Have you ever tried the larvae in goldenrod ball galls? They have a sweet, nutty flavor as I recall.

      There are other moth larvae that feed inside of evening primrose seed capsules, such as Mompha brevivittella. I’m not familiar with that one, but I suspect it feeds entirely concealed within the fruit, whereas the moth larva discussed above should leave a conspicuous hole with frass around it. That’s an interesting observation about the size of the stalk indicating presence/absence of larvae.

      • I haven’t tried those, I’ll have to see if I can find them.

        I’m pretty sure what I ate was growing inside the stem of the flower bud, and then ate it’s way out. I” see if I can document it this year.

  9. Pingback: Charley Eiseman’s Blog “BUG TRACKS” | Hardy Plant Society of New England

  10. Crystal says:

    Are there other species that are similar to the Evening Primrose Moth? I took a photo of a moth very similar to the Evening Primrose Moth except it doesn’t have the yellow strip on the bottom of the wing. https://www.facebook.com/CrystalMageePhotography/photos/pb.279478048814545.-2207520000.1448987213./796047353824276/?type=3&theater

  11. pat thomas says:

    thank you so much for all your work. i bought your book a few years ago and love it. i’m glad i found your blog through the evening primrose moth! i found one in our yard 2 summers ago and was amazed. hope all is well and best wishes for this new year.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Found one of these this morning, love your story and pictures thank you helped me identify mine.

  13. Pingback: More Evening Primrose Moths | BugTracks

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