Lucerne Moth

2012 December 12

Here’s another moth from our porch light on May 18, 2012

We have a lot of these around, but “brown” is a common color for moths, and I wasn’t having much luck sorting it out from all the other smallish brown moths pictured in the insect guides. So I posted it to BugGuide, where it was quickly IDed by Robert Zimlich as a Lucerne Moth, Nomophila nearctica. It is considered to be one of the “Crambid Snout Moths”, even though it doesn’t have much of a “snout”. This is evidently what was causing me trouble, I was looking for it amongst the many non-snouted moths.

The caterpillars get their name because they eat Lucerne, a city in Switzerland[1] another name for alfalfa. They also eat a lot of other things, but alfalfa is the one that is an actual agricultural crop, so that’s the one that people notice.

Also, it turns out I’ve had pictures of one of these before; it was the last picture on the miscellaneous micromoths page. This one, in fact:

It’s got the same banding on the wings (although a bit paler), the same head shape, and the same spikes on its legs. It’s just holding its wings in a somewhat more tucked position. So I guess I gave up too early in trying to identify it last time.

At any rate, they are certainly common locally. Here’s another one that I photographed on May 26, 2012. The banding on the wings was not as pronounced, but it looks right otherwise.

[1] When I looked up “lucerne”, almost all of the search hits were for the city. And I suddenly had this image in my mind of the city of Lucerne being completely swamped by billions of these moths as their caterpillars devoured the very buildings . . .

4 Responses
  1. December 12, 2012

    We have a brand of dairy products here in Canada called Lucerne which is what comes to my mind when I hear that word…so I would’ve thought these were lactose-tolerant moths.

  2. katbird permalink
    December 12, 2012

    Something to show scale would be helpful, but these are very small aren’t they?

  3. December 13, 2012

    katbird: They aren’t huge, but they aren’t the really tiny ones, either. They are around a half-inch long

  4. December 21, 2012

    Semi-off-topic: I was in Switzerland, staying in a little village near Lucerne about 10 years ago. I took a side-trip to the French side of Switzerland to do some wine tasting. The frog-swiss in the wine cellar kept asking me where I was staying. I kept saying, “Lucerne.” They kept looking at me with a confused look and asking in a thick French accent, “Where?” Finally after the fifth time, they said, “Ohhhh! Lucerne!” They said it exactly the same was as I had said it and it’s one of the most prominent cities in Switzerland, but they made a big deal about the pronunciation.

    It was an exquisitely French moment.

    I thought they were dorks.

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