Flora and fauna of the Athens County area, and occasionally habitats outside Ohio. Subject matter will consist of both interpretive material and taxonomic issues in plant and animal identification.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Prominent Moths of Ohio part 2

Oligocentria moths are those which fold their wings around the body or around a twig to blend in with their environment. Both our species show white spots at the top and bottom of the forewing. They also have a black dash next to the white patch. This one is Oligocentria semirufescens, the Red-washed Prominent. On the live specimen you can see the brick red shading near the top of the wings. On the pinned specimen, we see the reddish marks are actually located at the bottom of the wing.
Diane Brooks photo


White-streaked Prominent, Oligocentria lignicolor. As the name implies, look for lots of short white streaks through the wings. The reddish color is missing on this species. Also in the previous species, a large black circle is evident in the middle of the wing. In this species it is reduced to a little dash. Notice the raised tuft of hair on the thorax forming a Mr. T mohawk.


Gray-patched Prominent, Dasylophia thyatiroides. Look in the first picture for the orange-brown patch at the base of the forewing. Another orange-brown to reddish patch exists at the tip of the wing. Centered between them is a big gray patch. The male (below) lacks these color distinctions. What both sexes have in common is a black boomerang shape coming up from the bottom of the wing. Behind that is a black streak on the edge of the wing.

D. Brooks photos


Black-spotted Prominent, Dasylophia anguina. Similar to the previous species in that the females have a large orangish-brown patch in the wing. It is not bordered by any black as in the last species. The distinction between the other gray and orange patches in unclear, so don't spend too much time looking for it. As in thyatiroides, this species is sexually dimorphic. This species lacks the black boomerang. The streak along the wing edge is set further in, and is separated into two black spots.

Male and female shots from Diane.


Mottled Prominent, Macrurocampa marthesia. This is a large robust species. The base of the forewing is dark gray. The rest of the wing is mixed with streaks of white, black, and gray. The two black triangles further down the wing are not always evident. Does the moth overall look to have a green shading? The green color is VERY evident in live specimens, especially on the thorax, but I have seen them appear whitish as well. I do not use the tuft of hairs at the end of the abdomen because so many prominent moths have that same character.
D. Brooks

I just recently photographed the caterpillar. Look for the mottled pink face, and the two tails at the rear. The amount of red on the back will vary with age.


Drab Prominent, Misogada unicolor. Drab is an understatement. Whenever I come across this, it leads me to this species simply because it has fewer markings than anything in the family. In Jim's picture, it appears to show two zig-zag black lines. When alive, as in Diane's picture, these lines are covered by a dusting of greenish scales. Notice how each zig-zag indentation ends in a black tip. Other than the green, those black tips are usually the only thing evident when seeing this species in the field.
D. Brooks


Oblique Heterocampa, Heterocampa obliqua. The genus Heterocampa contains some of the largest and most stout looking of all the Prominent moths. In this species both sexes have a black curved line in the middle of the wing. A white streak comes down from the tip. In between those marks, the female (above) has an orange to brown patch.
D. Brooks


White-blotched Heterocampa, Heterocamps umbrata. This species also has a black curved line in the middle of the wing, though more faint. Above that is a white patch in the female, a bit more greenish in the male. There is no large white streak as in obliqua, just a dash of white at the ends. The wings show black teeth marks similar to Macrurocampa above, but the rest of the color marking are different. Most species in this genus show black spots on the abdomen.
D. Brooks


Small Heterocampa, Heterocampa subrotata. This is not a tiny moth. It's only small in reference to the other species in the genus. Several things to look for. The middle of the wing has a green shading. The AM and PM lines are orange. The black tooth marks look more like thin lines or faded dashes.
D. Brooks

Wavy-lined Heterocampa, Heterocampa biundata. Very similar to the previous species with the AM and PM lines wavy and orange. The difference is the entire wing is green. The black marks are not tooth like, nor are they thin lines, but appear as a row of dots instead.


Saddled Prominent, Heterocampa guttivitta. This is the most variable and difficult species in the group. The AM and PM lines are faded and almost non-existant. The black spots are also faded and indistinct. The female at least has a white streak in the wing, but even that is rather light. It's called the Saddled Prominent because the caterpillar has a brown mark on the middle of its back.
D. Brooks
In case I didn't mention it earlier, all moths with green coloration will fade to gray in a collection over time. Even fresh though, the female can look all gray. The males on the other hand are all green, and look virtually identical to the Drab Prominent I pictured earlier. In the Drab, the zig-zag lines end in a black tip. On this species, those lines end in white tips.


Double-lined Prominent, Lochmaeus bilineata. Lochmaeus species are gray with dark hind wings. The Z shaped or zig-zag lines are distinct with darker gray shading in the middle. Paralleling those lines is another gray zig-zag line near the outer portion of the wing. This is a common species in Ohio.
D. Brooks


Variable Oakleaf Prominent, Lochmaeus manteo. Variable is right. Not only does the caterpillar show many color forms, the moth is one I can never get right when I see it in the field. I have to capture it or photograph it and compare to other known specimens before I can put a name to it. The outer edge is dotted with pepper marks, which are usually distinct. The other gray and black shading can be quite different in the rest of the wing. Even those small white dashes are often missing. A common, but very difficult species to recognize.


Morning-Glory Prominent, Schizura ipomoeae. The Schizura group of Prominents are generally smaller than most members of the family, but at least easier to identify than some of the moths we just went over. The main portion of the wing can be light or dark. The best ID character is the white streak that extends across the top of the wing.


Chestnut Prominent, Schizura badia. The center of the wing is usually light colored, but the lower outer portions and the basal center are often tinged in reddish-pink. Also notice the streaking black comet in the forewings. In contrast to the light wings, the thorax is very dark. Most species of Schizura caterpillars feed on a wide variety of plants, but look for this on Viburnum shrubs.
D. Brooks


Unicorn Prominent, Schizura unicornis. So named for the large horn behind the caterpillars thorax. The larvae resemble the Morning-glory Prominent above, but lack the large white patch in the middle of the back. As for the adults, the upper tips of the wings have a white patch, with rusty markings just below. This area is bordered by black dots above, a black dash below, and a black circle in the middle. AM and PM lines are white, but often unnoticeable. The base of the forewings can be green, as shown in these specimens, or sometimes rust colored.
D. Brooks


Plain Schizura, Schizura apicalis. Called plain due to the fact it has very little going for it. It's essentially a dull gray moth with variable shades of white. Look for the black comma or crescent shape in the upper wings. The hind wings are very white, and contain a large black spot at the bottom. This is uncommon in Ohio.


Red-humped Prominent, Schizura concinna. Another species named for a large swelling on the back of the caterpillar. The light colored top of the wing turns into yellowish in the center, with the bottom portions being a brick red. In live specimens, the red would appear on its back. The male lacks as much yellow and red, and is more gray. Both sexes have a reduced reniform spot, (the small black dot in the center of the wing).

D. Brooks photos


Black-blotched Prominent, Schizura leptinoides. The ground color of this species is less than spectacular. The identification is in the details. The outer tip of the wing has a white patch. The reniform dot is once again small, but it is surrounded by a charcoal shading, usually more distinct than this photo shows. Also look for the long black streak arising from the basal area of the forewing. Others show that same streak, but it's not as obvious, or not needed to identify it.

D. Brooks photos


Clearly, and without a doubt, THE most difficult group to separate are the Datana species. There are seven in Ohio. They have 4-5 dark lines in the wings, some more distinct than others. Most have that black lightning streak on the outer tip of the forewing. Years ago I had the chance to sit down with Eric Metzler, who knows this group well, but I never got around to arranging a time. One of those regrets I now have. So I will fumble my way through this portion using several references and maybe a bit of Gestalt.

First thing to do is split them into two groups:
Base color of the wings yellow to orange
Base color of the wings tawny or brown

Let's start with the darker ones. Angus' Dantana, Dantana angusii, has both sets of wings brown, and is often even darker between the first two black lines. Sometimes there is a small dark spot in that area. Five dark lines are distinct, though variable in intensity. The outer edge of the forewings are wavy. Head and thorax a deep chocolate brown. The body is also brown. The caterpillar is green to yellow striped, and without a colored hump on the neck. It feeds on Walnut, Hickory, Birch, and Basswood. A common species in the state.
D. Brooks

Walnut Caterpillar Moth, Datana integerrima. Walnut is a dark wood, and so is the moth. The head and thorax are a dark rusty-red. The edge of the wings are NOT wavy or scalloped. The dark lines are edged in white or pale yellow. There is also yellow in the hind wings. The caterpillar is black with large tufts of white hairs. Another very common species in Ohio. It feeds on Walnut and Hickories.


Contracted Datana, Datana contracta. The wing margins are dark colored and straight, and the hind wings are light, very similar to the above species. We still see light streaks in the wings, but not as clearly as the previous species, nor do they seem to extend the full width of the wing. The brown patches and dark lines are often more weakly patterned, as in the first picture. The introduction of some orange scales starts to appear in this species.

D. Brooks photos

Drexel's Datana, Datana drexelii. This second group of species are more orange in color. Most show distinct wavy edges to their wings. The wavy edge on this species is reddish-brown. The hind, forewings, and body are uniform brownish-orange. The head and upper thorax are a brighter orange. The black dot and black comma mark are usually obvious in the wing. As the group goes, this is one of the larger species.

D. Brooks photos

Azalea Prominent, Datana major. Similar to drexelii above, but with a more brownish base color, especially in the hind wing. The wing margin is not as wavy and is edged in darker brown. The black dot and comma mark are often less distinct. The caterpillar is mottled yellow and black with red underparts. Photo courtesy of Bob Patterson.


Yellow-necked Caterpillar, Datana ministra. Named for the yellow-orange hump behind the head of the larva. While Datana adults all look alike, I should mention that most of the caterpillars have distinct markings, making them easier to identify. This may account for the many records across the state on this species. Some people will raise caterpillars of this genus into adults, thereby knowing for sure which moth they have. In observing the adult, I first notice there are no darker shadings between the lines. Three of the lines are distinct, with the other two often faded or absent. Also notice the black dot and comma are usually missing. Hindwing is pale.


Spotted Datana, Datana perspicua. Did I save the most difficult for last? Not really, that's a matter of opinion anyway. As the name implies, the wings show two circular spots rather than a comma streak. This is by far the most yellow species. In the field many may show a light tan or beige color. The hind wings are nearly pure yellowish-white. The wing margin on this one is straight, not wavy. You can see the intensity of the lines can vary among specimens, but another thing to notice, the middle lines often stop before reaching the top of the wing. The larvae look similar to angusii that I pictured earlier, but feed on Sumac and Oak.


Diane sent this Datana larva, possibly contracta, about to be parasitized by a fly. I have tried to match up her adult photos the best I could with the known pinned specimens. Let's hope we got them right.