Clear Winged Moth – Synanthedon geliformis
May 5, 2010
I took this picture of a elm borer moth in mid-April and ID’d the moth easily enough; thankfully I noticed in the picture that the antennae are a little fuzzy and started with moths – I’d though it might be a wasp when I spotted it, with those narrow looking black wings. It took me a lot longer to ID the bush it was visiting, some sort of viburnum, I’m pretty sure now. It’s part of a neighbor’s hedge, but they didn’t know what it was. Since this is a still picture, it doesn’t show that the moth was flexing just the tip of it’s abdomen up occasionally.
I love your website. It has really helped learn more about ID’ing the smaller fauna of our world.
First, we want you to know that we are setting your photo to post on Mother’s Day because we are leaving our office behind for a few days to visit our mother in Ohio and we will not be checking our email nor posting any letters while we are away. Your letter has us quite puzzled because you mention using our humble site to make identifications, yet we do not have an example of a previous posting of Synanthedon geliformis, and furthermore, the single image posted to BugGuide does not list a common name. We next tried a google search of the scientific name, and we found a mounted specimen posted to the Moth Photographers Group website, but again with no common name. There appears to be a real dearth of information on this species online, but eventually we discovered a mention on the Index to the Common Names for Florida Lepidoptera website, where it is called a Pecan Bark Borer. More searching led us to the Full Text of Pecan Insects online and this information:
“THE LESSER PECAN TREE BORER.
(Synanthedon (Sesia) geliformis Walker.)
Two different species of clear winged moths, both related to
each other and to the peach tree borers, occur on pecan. One
species has been recorded by Ilerrick* as attacking the pecan in
Mississippi and this species appears to be the one attacking it in
North Carolina. The moth is deep steel blue in color with yellow
bands on abdomen and legs. Gossardt found a species attacking
pecan in Florida and, not finding the adult, judged it to be the
same insect. We have never taken this insect in Georgia, our form
producing a moth which is dark brown in color, with a bright red
hind body, or abdomen. It also seems probable that this is the
species occurring in Florida. Since this form is related more
closely to the Lesser Peach-tree Borer, and since moreover, the
name Pecan Tree-borer has already been applied to the other spe-
cies, it has seemed best to call our insect the Lesser Pecan-tree
Furthermore, the website provides this information:
“The life history of this species has not yet been thoroughly
worked out. Moths appear over a period of at least three months
in the spring, from the first of March to the last of May. They lay
their eggs on the bark, and the young larvae, upon hatching, bur-
row inward and commence feeding in the inner layer of bark.
(Plate X, fig. 1.) The insects attack trees of all sizes and may be
found anywhere from a foot above ground to 15 or 20 ft. above,
in the branches. They spend the winter in the larval, or borer
stage, pupating during the late winter or early spring. On
emerging the moth leaves its empty pupal case protruding some-
what, usually from beneath a scale of the bark. ¥e have not been
able to determine whether there are two generations a year or not.
Since the lesser pecan-tree borers eat out only a small area,
especially when compared to the size of the trees, they usually
do not cause any material injury. Owing to the fact, however,
that they appear to congregate mainly in a few trees they may some-
times become so numerous as not only to seriously injure a tree but
to girdle it, thus killing it outright.“
We would love to know how you had your photograph identified and where the common name you include, Elm Borer Moth, is mentioned. Please write back and clear up this mystery.
To answer some of your questions, I have used your site to ID bugs, though not this particular one. You’ve helped me to learn enough that I can make use of the BugGuide site as well. It was very overwhelming when I first started trying to use it; there was just soooo much information and I didn’t know where to start. I found your site much easier and more fun to search, and I started learning how to distinguish at least the common sorts of bugs. If you’re just going to look at a random ordered sequence of pictures hoping to find a match, the little blurbs about them help keep the attention and interest up. 🙂
BugGuide is where I ID’d my moth, and I was quite happy that I stumbled onto it fairly quickly. But I also wanted to know if it had a common name and wanted to know if I could find more info about it’s habits and life cycle. With the scientific name, I figured I could turn up more info on the web, though as you mentioned, there is quite a lack of it out there (thanks for the extra info!). I did find two common names for it out there :
Elm Borer: http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/fasulo/woodypest/390.htm
Pecan Bark Borer: http://www.pherobase.com/database/commonname/common-names-index-eng.php & and the site you mentioned
I think there were just these three sites that I could find a common name on. I put them both in my notes and just picked one for the post, and I guess I think of elms more than pecans since I have an elm bonsai tree. If you find out which is right or wrong, please let me know. I’ve been thinking of finally registering with BugGuide so I can post this moth picture (the one they have is a little blurry) and would like to include the correct common name. I got confirmation today that the plant is viburnum (landscaping fellow was here to fix a break in our watering system, and he made a comment about how the viburnum hedge was blocking some of the spray heads).
I hope this clears up some of your questions. If you have any more, I’m happy to answer.
Thanks for posting it on Mother’s day; my mom likes this picture.
Thanks for all the swell information. Don’t tell all of our other contributors, but you are our new favorite reader. Your letter exactly corresponds to our mission when we began this site nearly a decade ago: To foster a dialog about insects for people who respect and admire them. Thanks again.