What kind of moth?
Location: Grants Pass, OR
August 16, 2011 12:40 pm
I live in the woods near Grants Pass, OR. This moth was seen in August, on a butterfly bush. Blue body, red/orange shoulders, black wings, feathered antenae. From end to end, it was about 1 inch long or slightly longer with wings folded. I haven’t ever seen it here before.
This is a diurnal Tiger Moth in the genus Ctenucha. Generally, unless a species is very distinctive or very range limited, we are happy if we can get an identification to the genus level. Since we are not professionally trained, sometimes a family will do, and in very difficult identifications like Mayflies or Solifugids, we are content with the order level. We found a reference on BugGuide to a Ctenucha from Oregon that looks very similar to your individual, and it is identified as rubroscapus/multifaria species complex. This identification remark has us very intrigued: “Identification
I heard back from Chris Schmidt today, and the bottom line is that all the characteristics mentioned are not consistent enough to be reliable. And he states they may actually be variations of one species. DNA analysis is forthcoming to determine as such. Here is what Chris stated:
“Hi Jason – the taxonomy of this group needs some work; I suspect rubroscapus and multifaria are slight geographic variants of the same species. The supposed diagnostic diff’s don’t hold up in series of specimens (even from the same place), since the extent of the black on the patagia and white on the costa are both variable. I can find no diff’s to reliably separate the two, although I suspect there would be subtle ‘average’ diff’s between topotypical series.”
Given that they are not distinguishable by appearance and cover the same general distribution, it may be best to lump rubroscapus/multifaria into a temporary species complex until the mtDNA analysis is presented and the systematics worked out.
… J.D. Roberts, 18 August, 2008″
We somehow think it is sad that we humans are so obsessed with species identification that we are having to resort to DNA analysis, which means killing and destroying a specimen. The insects and arthropods know how to recognize their own species and if their confusing appearances thwart we humans, there must be a good reason.
Well, that’s a lot of info. Genus level is certainly good enough for me!
Thank you for all your work. I am humbled by your efforts to help us less experienced and less educated folk out here bug watching. Thank you again; you guys are awesome.