Primrose Moths

Primrose moths on a primrose, Allegheny County,PA, 6 Aug 2017 (photo by Kate St.John)
Primrose moths on a primrose, Allegheny County,PA, 6 Aug 2017 (photo by Kate St.John)

Last Sunday I found a crowd of pink and yellow moths head down in a common evening primrose.  Bob Machesney identified them as primrose moths (Schinia florida).

I should have guessed their name.

Moths are often named for their host plant and so are these. Primrose moth caterpillars eat evening primrose, biennial gaura and other members of the Evening-primrose family (Onagraceae).  In July and August the adult moths fly at night and spend the day resting on their host plants.  That's why there were so many on one flower.

Keep an eye out this month for beautiful pink moths on primrose and biennial gaura.  Here's a common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) without a moth in it.

Common evening primrose (photo by Kate St. John)
Common evening primrose (photo by Kate St. John)

Click here to see biennial gaura whose flowers are actually quite small.

And here's what the primrose moth looks like in a museum, mounted to show all its features.  Amazingly its antennae are pink.

Primrose moth specimen, mounted (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Primrose moth specimen, mounted (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

(primrose photos by Kate St. John. photo of mounted primrose moth from Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original)

2 thoughts on “Primrose Moths

  1. I have evening primrose at the edge of my patio (sadly none this year). It is great fun. The “evening” part refers to its blooming habit The buds open spectacularly, so fast you can actually watch the action. They only bloom for one evening, then there are new buds the next evening.

    They are eaten by a number of predators. My favorite is a green caterpillar that eats holes in the buds. When the flowers open they have fascinating regular holes, one in each petal of the blossom. I’ve never seen the pink moths, but there is a large hawk moth that is attracted to the blossoms.

    Altogether this plant is an entertainment show worth watching. I have “primrose parties” where we stand and watch each flower opening. You’d think it was a slow-motion camera, but it’s not.

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