Dirty-white moth with dark head – Agonopterix atrodorsella

2016 February 3

Sam found this little moth unusually early in the spring, on April 21, 2015. It was in our bathroom, of all places (which has no windows to the outside, so it wouldn’t seem like the most likely place to find moths. But there you are.)

It was just about half an inch long. The head is kind of distinctive, with the maxillae (the extra appendages around the mouth) curling up over its forehead like horns.

Somewhat surprisingly (to me, anyway) I actually found this one unassisted[1]. It is a dead ringer for Agonopterix atrodorsella (no common name). These are micromoths in the poorly-studied superfamily Gelechioidea, which includes the case-bearers and twirler moths, among many other little moths that mostly escape notice. This particular species overwinters as an adult, which explains why we found it so early in the spring. The larvae feed on Eupatorium (“Bonesets”), Coreopsis, and Bidens (“Beggartick”). Since these are all in the Asteraceae family, and this moth has not really been much studied, I would not be surprised to find its larvae on a bunch of other common plants in that family.

[1] Well, without human assistance, anyway. Google Image Search was immensely helpful in narrowing down the possibilities to something a human could work with. So don’t fear computers, they don’t want to be evil. They just want to help, and to look at cat pictures

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