Aproned Cenopis Moth

2024 January 1

This little brown-and-yellow moth was hanging around our porch light[1] on June 30, 2023. Here is another photo which isn’t so washed out on the yellow portions.

It has a rather pronounced snout, and the general body size and shape looks like one of the tortricid moths.

There are about 1400 known species of tortricid moth in North America, and so hunting down this one was looking likely to be something of a slog. So, just to see how it would do, I plumped my first photo into Google Lens. And I see that things have improved rather markedly since the last time I tried using it for moth ID. First off, all of the hits were actual moths (no women’s eyebrows or baked fish-heads). Second, the fifty or so image hits all had broadly the correct color scheme. And third, I got two pretty much perfect matches in the first ten hits (one to BugGuide and one to Wikipedia[2])! And, it is an Aproned Cenopis, Cenopis niveana. A rather pretty little moth that apparently can be found as flying adults for pretty much the whole summer[3]

The page didn’t say what the caterpillars eat, I had to go all the way up to the subfamily page to find out that “members of this subfamily tend to be polyphagus”. Which basically means that they will eat most any plant that isn’t actively toxic.

One thing that could have lead to a bit of confusion if I had continued trying to identify it by eye, is that it apparently has several very distinct color phases. Some of the example images on the BugGuide page look like this one, but others are nearly all yellow with a brown arch on each wing, and some are even almost pure yellow or pure white.

[1] I am actually getting a bit concerned about what comes to our porch light these days. I don’t seem to be getting anywhere near either the diversity or the sheer numbers that I used to get in the past. In particular, the big moths have gotten really scarce, and what we get are like this one, fingernail-size or smaller. We haven’t been using any pesticides, and I don’t think any of our neighbors have, either, so I don’t know what is causing it.

[2] The Wikipedia page is pretty skimpy, and is using the species name Sparganothis_niveana, which according to BugGuide is an obsolete name. I don’t know why Wikipedia is using it, especially considering that they have a link to that very BugGuide page.

[3] This moth actually looks rather familar, to the point where I am not entirely sure that I haven’t photographed it before. But, I’m not seeing it in any of my past postings, so if I did, the pictures never got posted for one reason or another.

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