The Virginia Ctenucha moth, scientifically known as Ctenucha virginica, is a fascinating insect that belongs to the Animalia kingdom and the Arthropoda phylum. A member of the Insecta class, this moth is unique and worth learning more about. As you explore the world of moths, you’ll find that the Virginia Ctenucha offers some intriguing characteristics.
This moth displays a striking appearance, with its metallic blue body and bold orange head. It’s a species native to parts of North America, making it a notable sight for those interested in the region’s insect population. You may find these moths in fields and meadows, where they favor sunny and grassy areas.
Understanding the Virginia Ctenucha’s life cycle and behavior patterns is important for researchers, naturalists, and enthusiasts alike. By delving into the biology and ecology of this species, you’ll gain a better appreciation for its place within the diverse world of moths and the broader insect community. So, get ready to expand your knowledge and discover all there is to know about the remarkable Virginia Ctenucha moth.
Adult Virginia Ctenucha moths (Ctenucha virginica) are medium-sized with a wingspan of around 22-23 mm. They have striking orange heads and metallic blue-black bodies. Their wings are dark and iridescent, making them resemble certain butterflies, like irises. However, they can be distinguished by their:
- Fast flight towards vegetation
- Darting under leaves to hide
Virginia Ctenucha moth caterpillars are quite different in appearance when compared to adults. Some key features include:
- Long, hair-like setae
- Bright coloration, often orange or yellow
- Dark markings on their bodies
Moths like Virginia Ctenucha undergo a complete metamorphosis, transforming from the larval stage to the adult stage.
Identifying Virginia Ctenucha moths can be made easier by examining a few key features such as:
- Orange head and collar
- Metallic blue-black body
- Larger size compared to the Yellow-Collared Scape Moth (Cisseps fulvicollis)
Here’s a comparison table of Virginia Ctenucha and Yellow-Collared Scape Moth:
|Feature||Virginia Ctenucha||Yellow-Collared Scape Moth|
|Head and collar color||Orange||Yellow|
|Body color||Metallic blue-black||More brownish|
|Size (wingspan)||22-23 mm||Slightly smaller|
|Flight and hiding behavior||Faster, darts under leaves||Less agile|
When identifying moth species, it is important to consult reliable resources like Butterflies and Moths of North America for correct information.
Habitat and Range
The Virginia Ctenucha moth (Ctenucha virginica) can be found throughout a notable portion of Eastern North America. Its range stretches from the southern parts of Canada, such as Manitoba, to several states in the United States. You will discover them in areas like Georgia, Pennsylvania, Kansas, and as far north as Labrador.
The Virginia Ctenucha moth prefers specific microhabitats in its range. These particular environments include:
- Open woodlands
These moths thrive in areas with a diverse array of plant life, which provides ample food sources and opportunities for them to lay their eggs. Their larvae feed on multiple grass and sedge species, which can commonly be found in the habitats mentioned above. So, when exploring fields, meadows, or grassy woodlands in Eastern North America, be on the lookout for these fascinating creatures that make their home among the diverse plant life.
Behavior and Habits
The Virginia Ctenucha moth is an interesting species with unique behaviors and habits. During the day, you can often spot these moths basking in the sun. They are diurnal, which means they are active during daylight hours rather than at night.
Their habits include feeding on a variety of plants. You might notice them on flowers such as the goldenrod, where they sip nectar using their long proboscis. These moths are also known for having two broods per year, leading to a more extended flight period throughout the warm months.
One fascinating aspect of the Virginia Ctenucha moth is its ability to overwinter. They do so as caterpillars that can tolerate the cold temperatures. During this time, their growth slows down, conserving energy to survive the winter months. When warmer weather returns, they continue to grow and eventually form cocoons before transforming into adult moths.
In summary, some key features of the Virginia Ctenucha moth’s behavior and habits are:
- Being active during daytime
- Feeding on various plants and flowers
- Having two broods per year
- Overwintering as caterpillars
The Virginia ctenucha moth, a beautiful and intriguing species, has some interesting food habits that you should know about. In this section, we’ll discuss what these moths typically consume and how they obtain their sustenance.
As a caterpillar, the Virginia ctenucha feeds on various types of plants. Some examples of their preferred food sources include:
- Grasses: They consume the leaves and stems of various grasses.
- Sedges: These plants are also a favorite of the caterpillars.
- Goldenrod: The larvae enjoy munching on the foliage of goldenrod plants.
When the Virginia ctenucha matures into a moth, its food habits shift. As an adult, it primarily seeks nectar from flowers, with a particular preference for flowering plants that provide plenty of this sweet substance. To satisfy their hunger, they visit a variety of flowers, sipping the nectar through their proboscis, a long and flexible mouthpart.
It’s important to remember that the food habits of Virginia ctenucha moths play an essential role in their ecosystem. They help pollinate the flowers they visit, contributing to the health and diversity of the plant life around them.
By understanding the Virginia ctenucha moth’s food habits, you can appreciate the valuable part they play in their environment and perhaps even support them in your own garden by planting flowers that provide an abundant source of nectar.
The Virginia Ctenucha Moth (Ctenucha virginica) is a fascinating insect belonging to the kingdom Animalia, phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, and order Lepidoptera. The moth is in the family Erebidae, and within the subfamily Arctiinae1. The family Erebidae is a prominent moth family, while the Arctiidae family is now considered a part of it2.
Moths vs Butterflies
It might be confusing for some people to distinguish between moths and butterflies, but there are a few differences that can help you tell them apart:
- Moths tend to have feathery antennae, while butterfly antennae are thin and club-shaped.
- Butterflies are usually active during the day, while moths are typically active during the night.
- Moths tend to have more subdued colors and patterns, whereas butterflies are more vibrant3.
Photography and Observation
Finding and photographing Virginia Ctenucha Moths can be a fun and rewarding experience. There are a few platforms where you can share your observations and learn from others, such as iNaturalist, BugGuide, and the Maryland Biodiversity Project. When photographing these moths, remember that they are most active during the day and are usually found in the northeastern quadrant of the United States4.
Here are some tips for photographing and observing Virginia Ctenucha Moths:
- Approach them slowly and quietly, trying not to disturb their natural behavior.
- Look for them in open fields, meadows, and forest edges where their host plants are abundant.
- Capture their striking features like the orange head, black and metallic blue body1.
- Try different angles and lighting conditions to showcase their vibrant colors and intricate patterns.
Overall, understanding the classification of the Virginia Ctenucha Moth and being able to tell moths and butterflies apart, along with practicing observation and photography skills, will allow you to better appreciate these fascinating creatures.
The Virginia Ctenucha moth is a fascinating insect with a rich history and remarkable features. Let’s dive into some interesting facts about this unique creature.
Eugenius Johann Christoph Esper’s Connection
Eugenius Johann Christoph Esper, a German entomologist, was the first to describe the Virginia Ctenucha moth. Thanks to his work, we have detailed knowledge about this fascinating species and its behaviors.
Rocky Mountains Habitat
These moths can be found in the Rocky Mountains, among other regions. This habitat provides an ideal environment for them to thrive, as they make use of the diverse flora found here.
The Virginia Ctenucha moth is known for its striking appearance, which includes:
- Metallic blue body
- Orange head
- Black or dark brown wings with a white edge
These characteristics make it easy to spot and distinguish from other moths.
The life cycle of the Virginia Ctenucha moth consists of four stages:
- Larva (caterpillar)
- Pupa (cocoon)
The caterpillars are particularly interesting, as they display a colorful, fuzzy appearance and feed on various types of plants, including grasses.
Role in the Ecosystem
The adult moths serve as pollinators for different plant species, contributing to the overall health and biodiversity of their environment. Moreover, both caterpillars and adult moths are a valuable food source for birds, bats, and other predators.
As you explore the world of the Virginia Ctenucha moth, remember to appreciate its unique beauty and significant role in our ecosystem.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Virginia Ctenucha
May 22, 2010
This was outside my house last summer in Nova Scotia, Canada. Just curious to what exactly it is! Thanks! 🙂
Nova Scotia, CanadaSome sort of flying insect
According to BugGuide, the Virginia Ctenucha, despite its name, is a Northern species.
Letter 2 – Brown Ctenucha
Subject: Ctenucha brunnea Photos
Geographic location of the bug: Laguna Beach, California
Time: 03:10 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello!
I came across your website while trying to identify the moth I saw today. I’m pretty sure it’s a Ctenucha brunnea. I only saw one photo on your site so I figured I’d pass on my photos for your use.
Thanks for the great reference site!
How you want your letter signed: Rachelle
Thanks so much for adding to our digital archives with your wonderful image of the Brown Ctenucha. Our only image of this species dates back to 2006. According to BugGuide, the range is “Coastal areas of central to southern California.”
Letter 3 – Brown Ctenuchid
bug id Greetings – i wondered if you could tell me what this is….i fel SO bad – i’m sure we had something to do with its injury. Humanely euthanized…
Thank you for sending in your photo of a mortally wounded Brown Ctenuchid, Ctenucha brunnea, a Tiger Moth that is found in California and Arizona.
Letter 4 – California Ctenucha
Here is a pretty bug I haven’t been able to identify. When it flys you can see that the body is a metallic blue, and the wings look black. Unfortunately, they were a bit shy so I wasn’t able to get a very good picture. This was taken in the hills along the Southern California coast. They are quite common for a short period each year.
This is a moth known as the California Ctenucha, Ctenucha multifaria.
Letter 5 – California Ctenucha
Can you tell me what this is? Found on the Oregon coast. Thanks!
You have a photo of California Ctenucha, Ctenucha multifaria. According to Holland: “This species, which is closely allied to [Ctenucha rubroscapus], may be dicriminated by the fact that the fore wings are lighter in color, the collar is black, not orange spotted with black, as in C. rubroscapus, and the costal margin of the primaries is narrowly edged with white.”
Letter 6 – Ctenucha
Another Ctenucha for you
This lovely moth was flying about my yard in Harbor (Brookings) Oregon today. I caught it by hand and placed it in a jar and then in the fridge to cool off. When it was ‘cool’, I took it outside and posed it on it’s food plant, course grasses and took it’s picture. This is one colorful moth!
Crafty bit of nature photography strategy Sheila. Your specimen appears to be Ctenucha multifaria, the California Ctenucha.
Letter 7 – Ctenucha
I found a very beautiful bug and was wondering what it is.
December 30, 2009
I found this beautiful bug on some Texas Privet flowers and was wondering what it is. I found it in La Jolla ,California in August of this year.
La Jolla, Califonia
This is a Tiger Moth in the genus Ctenucha in the rubroscapus/multifaria species complex as pictured on BugGuide. It flies in California and Oregon in the summer.
Letter 8 – Ctenucha venosa
Is this a moth?
I have several insects like that in the photo feeding on Floss flowers in my yard in Tucson, AZ. I have been unable to identify them in any of my insect identification references but it seems to have the characteristics of a diurnal moth. Am I correct and what is the species?
This is a diurnal moth, and Eric Eaton has substantiated our theory that it is in the genus Ctenucha. Sorry we haven’t a definitive species.
Thanks. Using your information, it appears to be Ctenucha venosa, Walker.
I typed Ctenucha into Google and this was about the third website listed. Thanks for your locating the Genus so I could find the species. The website showing the leads to the photos and the distribution may be found at: www.funet.fi/pub/sci/bio/life/insecta/ lepidoptera/ditrysia/noctuoidea/arctiidae/ctenuchinae/ctenucha/
From here I went to: nitro.biosci.arizona.edu/zeeb/butterflies/figs/ moths/Arctiidae/C_venosa.jpg to find the photo and to: www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/lepid/moths/usa/1928.htm to find the range map. Thanks again,
Letter 9 – Ctenucha virginica
Hi – I saw your wonderful site yesterday and I’m hoping you can identify the strangest moth or butterfly I’ve seen. My friend lives a short distance northwest of Chicago and saw this moth late at night. The body is a beautiful irridescent greenish color, with a brilliant orange head. Thank you ~ Dawn
You have a photograph of the Virginia Ctenucha, a type of Wasp Moth, because they seem to mimic stinging insects. They are usually spotted in May and June taking nector from blackberry blossoms. They are relatively common in the Appalachian faunal region. The caterpillar is a yellow wooly creature that feeds on grasses.
Letter 10 – Ctenuchid
Is this a type of humming bird moth?
July 17, 2009
Hello – I found this moth along a large creek that runs through our property. He seemed to be eating the nectar from this flowering plant. His color was so unique it caught my attention as I had never seen one like him before. He had a brilliant blue coloring on his under belly and you can see a little of that on his backside as well. The neon blue along with that neon orange made him really stand out.
Your moth is one of the Tiger Moths in the tribe Ctenuchini, the Ctenuchids. Your moth is in the process of a taxonomic reevaluation, and it is currently being called Ctenucha rubroscapus/multifaria species complex according to BugGuide. It is not a Hummingbird Moth, but rather a diurnal Arctiid.
Letter 11 – Ctenuchid from Costa Rica
unidentified ctenuchinae moth????
Hi …LOVE YOUR SITE!!!…. anyways , I am an ex-northerner , now living in the mountains of Costa Rica. I have started a bug/moth/butterfly collection. Your site has been invaluable to me because even though I am living in the tropics and many of the insects are different , the families and classification remains the same and for some of the insects /butterflies even narrowing that down has been a help. But now I am stumped!!! …. I found these two moths within a day of each other in the early morning sitting in the sun..not that far from each other. I have spent weeks and weeks on the internet trying to make a positive ID…(that’s how I came across your site) the best I could do was Arctiidae (Ctenuchinae) or family sphingidae.. and I am not even sure this is right . I have enclosed a photo of both … I am assuming the smaller one on the left is a male (the abdomen has shrivelled somewhat but there are claspers on the bottom)and the larger one on the right is female . Any help would be appreciated…. thank you in advance!
Barva, Costa Rica
We agree that this is a Ctenuchine Tiger Moth and not a Sphingid. Sorry we can’t help with the species. We seem to recall having looked at a tropical Ctenuchine site last year but we were unable to locate it.
Identification Courtesy of Julian Donahue
These appear to be a male (left) and female of the large (in both size and number of species) Neotropical tiger-moth genus Amastus, most likely A. episcotosia, described by Dognin from Panama in 1901. These arctiines are much larger than most ctenuchids; these individuals have a forewing length of nearly two inches (5 cm)–but then there’s nothing to indicate scale in the photo.
Letter 12 – Ctenuchid from Guatemala
Subject: A Ctenucha moth?
Location: Panajachel, Guatemala
February 3, 2016 1:15 pm
I’m a Canadian living in Panajachel, Guatemala, in the Western Highlands near Lake Atitlan. We found this beautiful moth on our porch today mid-afternoon on a very sunny day. He was very lively! Did not want to sit still for a picture.
Black and red wing, very bright iridescent blue body.
Am I correct in thinking this is a type of Ctenucha moth?
You are correct that this Tiger Moth is in the subtribe Ctenuchina, and we believe that it is in the genus Cyanopepla based on the image posted to Emtomofausac Insectos de Guatemala and the image on Neotropical Lepidoptera that is identified as Cyanopepla bella, though we are not fully convinced that is the correct species. We located several members of the genus online that look very similar, but none have the bold, unbroken red marking on the forewing. We will contact Arctiinae expert Julian Donahue to see if he can provide a species.
Julian Donahue Responds
Locality?? Also, hindwing markings important in this genus.
I may be able to come up with a name if I know the locality.
Thanks Julian. The location is “Panajachel, Guatemala, in the Western Highlands near Lake Atitlan.”
Sorry, Daniel. It looks very familiar, and I’m pretty sure there’s an identified specimen of this in the LACM collection that you can check out.
Otherwise, without the hindwing I can’t be positive about anything else, although I think you have the right genus.
As luck would have it, I think I’ve come close.
This is the original figure of Gangamela ira (Druce, 1896), described from Panama, which, it has been noted, is virtually identical to the figure of Cyanopepla beata Rothschild, 1912, also described from Panama.
At present, the two taxa remain as separate species in separate genera! If they are the same species, then the Druce name would have priority, but that still leaves the proper generic placement in question.
Note that your Guatemalan specimen has much more blue on the inner margin of the forewing, and may, in fact, be something completely different. But this is the closest I can come for now.
Hurray for the bobcat; we’re still waiting to see one here on our property, although we’ve seen them on some local birding walks!
Wow, thank you so much!
I looked through all the pictures I had taken, even the blurry ones, to see if I got a shot of the hindwing but no luck. 🙁
I’ve been blogging about my time in Guate and I think I will post this conversation up as a topic of interest to anyone looking for bug identification.
Letter 13 – Mating Virginia Ctenucha Moths
Location: west central ohio
June 3, 2011 8:07 am
what are these… june 2 west central ohio
Signature: Steve Pierce
These mating moths are in the genus Ctenucha, most likely Ctenucha virginica, commonly called the Virginia Ctenucha, though it ranges much farther than the state of Virginia. Interestingly, BugGuide does not even include any individuals from Virginia in its range map since BugGuide has not received any submissions from Virginia. The more full figured individual with the more slender antennae is the female and the male is the lower individual in your photograph.
Letter 14 – Veined Ctenucha Moth
Subject: Black bug with white stripes
Location: near Tucson, Arizona
October 27, 2015 6:53 pm
The attached photo was taken October 27, 2015, about 4pm. This bug is frequently found on Ericameria laricifolia: Turpentine Bush (shown).
Signature: Tucson Gardener
Dear Tucson Gardener,
This lovely diurnal Tiger Moth is a Veined Ctenucha, Ctenucha venosa, a species found in the states of the Southwest. You can compare your individual to images posted to BugGuide. Since we will be away from the office later in the week, we are post-dating your submission to go live in our absence.
Thank you. I had no idea some moths were not “fuzzy”.
Letter 15 – Unknown Caterpillar from South Africa stings person: Virginia Ctenucha Falsly Accused!!!
Ed. Note: Please do not submit images of similar insects from the internet with identification requests without informing us of the origin of the images. That wastes our time and the time of our readers.
Subject: A caterpillar that I think is poisonous
Location: Pretoria, South Africa
April 3, 2014 1:28 am
This specific caterpillar has sent me to hospital. I was at school when it had stung me when I had seen it there were no hairs on it. It made my face swell and my left arm doctors say it is not a allergic reaction. Could you please tell me if this caterpillar is poisonous?
Dear M. Ismail,
Our initial attempts to identify this stinging Moth Caterpillar did not produce any results. We are posting your image and awaiting input from our readership. There are many caterpillars that have utricating hairs that can produce a reaction in sensitive humans, and the skin of the face is especially sensitive.
Ed. Note: Virginia Ctenucha image pilfered from BugGuide!!!
It seems this image was lifted from BugGuide, probably unintentionally, by the M. Ismail in an attempt to identify a different stinging caterpillar in South Africa. Rather than submitting an original image, we were misled when we were not informed that this image was not taken by the person who wrote the request. We apologize for any confusion this has caused.
Letter 16 – Veined Ctenucha
San Pedro River AZ redhead
November 11, 2009
A friend in AZ recently took this picture of this very handsome insect. It was on a rabbit bush in the San Pedro River Raparian area in SE Arizona. She said she saw a couple of them on the bush. It’s probably fairly common, but I lived there for eight years and don’t recall ever seeing one of these before. It’s gorgeous, and I’d really like to know what it is.
I HOPE the picture attached correctly!
San Pedro River near Sierra Vista, AZ
Your moth is known as the Veined Ctenucha, Ctenucha venosa. It is found in Arizona and New Mexico. The caterpillars feed on grasses.
Letter 17 – Veined Ctenucha
Subject: Black yellow stripped wing insect
Location: Southern AZ (Santa Cruz county)
August 22, 2017 8:18 am
Another “resident” of Salero Ranch… can you help ID?
This one (attached photo) is a little over one inch long bright red on face with bright blueish area below/under face ( not visible in photo )
Signature: Len Nowak (SALERO RANCH)
Letter 18 – Virginia Ctenucha
Ctenucha in Maine?
We live in northern Maine, a bit above the 45 degree latitude line, and this fellow visited our back door light one night after days of rain. My questions: Is he a Ctenucha and is he native to our area or probably blown in with a storm? Thank you so much for your assistance — your web site is FANTASTIC!,
Even though it is commonly called the Virginia Ctenucha, Ctenucha virginica ranges into Canada.
Letter 19 – Virginia Ctenucha
Subject: Identifying Black Moth(?) with Metallic Blue Markings
Geographic location of the bug: Northern Indiana, USA
Time: 11:36 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Dear Bugman,
I noticed what appears to be black moths flirting between tree leaves and circling the trees a few days ago. I’ve never seen these moths in my parents’ yard or anywhere else. They are several of them, 5-10, and they are flying around a weeping willow and an oak tree. They are landing and staying on the oak leaves even when approached. Thank you for you help in identifying this for me and my family!
How you want your letter signed: Nicholas K. Sobecki
Congratulations on identifying this Virginia Ctenucha as a moth. It is a very effective wasp mimic. Here is a BugGuide image. According to BugGuide: “Despite its name, this species is more commonly found in the northern United States and southern Canada than in Virginia, which represents the southern boundary of its range.”
Letter 20 – Virginia Ctenuchid
What’s this one?
I love your site! I’ve been wondering if there was such a place to ask "what the heck is that" bug questions, and a friend just identified a hummingbird clearwing moth thanks to you…so I’m hoping you know what this bug is, too: I took this picture while camping in Ontario, and I’ve never seen this particular bug before. The colours were really amazing, though, and I wish I’d been able to get a better shot. I posted it on my blog and asked readers to identify it, but most people could only come up with the name of the flower, not the bug.
Thanks for any information you can offer!
Lee Ann Balazuc
Hi Lee Ann,
This is a Virginia Ctenuchid, Ctenucha virginica. This moth is found in wet meadows in the Eastern U.S. and Canada. The caterpillar feeds on grasses.
Letter 21 – Virginia Ctenuchid
Wed, Jun 24, 2009 at 3:00 PM
This may be the prettiest insect I have ever photographed — but what the heck is it?? Any help would be appreciated.
Manitoulin Island, Canada
This is a moth known as the Virginia Ctenuchid, Ctenucha virginica. Interestingly, we just posted a photo of a close relative, the Veined Ctenuchid, Ctenucha venosa, also from Canada. What was most interesting is that the Veined Ctenuchid typically ranges in the American Southwest, and it was about 1000 miles from home. The Virginia Ctenuchid is the only true eastern member of the genus. The orange and blue coloration of the moth looks beautiful with the magenta blossom, a thistle we believe. You may read more about the Virginia Ctenuchid on BugGuide.