Tuesday, June 29, 2010

An Unexpected Endangered Moth

While helping with the butterfly count in Adams County, Ohio, we found a medium-sized moth. My friend, John Howard, immediately knew it was the state endangered moth, Cycnia inopinatus . The common name I found quite humorous. It is called an "Unexpected Tiger Moth or Unexpected Cycnia". The name sounds like an unwelcome guest. Uh, oh, Unexpected Mother-in-law just dropped by for a visit or Unexpected Cow in the field over there, which reminded me of the joke "Interrupting Cow" MOOOOO! So, I was walking around giggling every time John mentioned its name.

Here is one of John's pic of the pretty little moth. It is hard to tell, but the head and edges of the wings near the head are lined in orange. You can see that in this picture from BugGuide.

The orange trim on the moth comes from the caterpillar, which is bright orange. Now, you are probably thinking, "Well, I know why it is endangered... anything could spot a bright orange caterpillar!"

I can never resist taking pictures of Butterflyweed...

Actually, the orange hue is great camouflage. The caterpillar loves Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa. The flowers on this plant, as you can see, is a brilliant orange. The caterpillar can wrap around the flowers and be completely concealed. Butterflyweed is in the milkweed family, so the orange color that the caterpillar wears so boldly is also warning colors. Butterflyweed, and other milkweeds, contain cardiac glycosides. These chemicals cause the caterpillar to be very distasteful to any bird or other animal that decides it might like to snack on it. If enough of the chemical is ingested, it can cause vomiting and other assorted problems.

Unexpected Tiger Moth is found in Indiana in Hoosier National Forest. This Conservation Assessment contains more information about the life cycle of this moth and where it is located in the Ohio Valley area, including Indiana.



Anonymous said...

We have lots of these on our butterfly weed. Are the really endangered?

Janet Creamer said...

They are endangered in Ohio, where the butterfly count took place. They are very rare in Indiana. See the Conservation assessment toward the end of my post.

Alexis Hardesty said...

I have found many of those in my field in north Vernon in we have been raising four of tem in our habitat but now that I've seen this I wonder if I should release them back on the plant, we had planned to release upon emergence if they made cocoons...

Paul Nielsen said...

I found and photographed the orange caterpillar (more than one) about this time of year in 2011. The location was on milkweed found along farm roads here in western Champaign County, Illinois. As I recall, I kept one until it pupated. I did not know how to overwinter it & kind of lost track of it. My presence along the road is caused by my morning run.

In the meantime, I have taken to collecting Monarch eggs and caterpillars from the roadsides. Monarch eggs are probably almost universally singular. The roadsides are subject to mowing at more or less random times, so I now collect and try to raise anything of interest. This morning I found two groups of seven eggs on the underside of a milkweed leaf. My first guess was Cycnia inopinatus, but we will see if the nursery project is successful. The eggs seem to be somewhat cylindrical more than completely rounded.

The roadsides of interest are in amongst corn & soy bean fields approximately 2 miles from a county park area.