Monday, May 16, 2011

Yellow-Collared Scape Moth

Note the feathery antennae of this Yellow-collared Scape Moth nectaring on Blue Mist Flower (Eupatorium spp.)
Yellow-collared Scape Moth nectaring on Blue Mist Flower (Eupatorium spp.)
I love learning!  This insect was new to me.  Have you seen it before?

If you spotted this fellow, who is clearly enjoying sweet nectar from the Blue Mist flowers, it would be completely understandable if you assumed he was a wasp.  Blue-black wings, tight shape, flying during the day – none of these features would make us think “moth,” yet that’s what he is!  Hiding in plain sight, this is the Yellow-collared Scape Moth, Cisseps fulvicollis .   I agree, he is poorly named, because clearly that collar is bright red.  He is a wasp-mimic.  Other creatures accept his disguise and let him sip nectar in peace. 
The Yellow-collared Scape Moth may look like a wasp, but he does have moth features.   Notice the feathery antennae, a bit of a fuzzy thorax, and  long, coiled proboscis.   Another day-flying moth, Virginia Ctenucha,  Ctenucha virginica, looks similar, but has a red head.  Our Yellow-Collared Scape Moth has a black head.

To understand and hopefully remember names, I try to learn what the root words mean.   My simple Latin dictionary shows that fulvus means reddish-yellow or tawny.  Collum means neck.  Therefore, fulvicollis  means tawny-necked. OK, we'll say yellow-collared.  

“Scape,” from the common name, is a botany term and refers to the stems eaten by the larvae.  Yellow-collared Scape Moth caterpillars feed on grasses, lichens, sedges and spike rushes (Eleocharis spp.)