I took a photo of an evening-primrose and quickly moved on along the trail. When I got home, I was eager, as always, to look through the photos and identify what I had found. The photo to the top right was a photo that I uploaded to iNaturalist and it kept suggesting "Primrose Moth" as an identification. I certainly didn't see a moth while in the field, but I looked closer, and to my surprise, there was a Primrose Moth! Not only one, but two! (They can be seen in the left bud.) I couldn't believe it! I was so excited, and I thought, "All I have to do is take some photos of evening-primrose and I'll find some pretty moths? That's easy!"
I went back the next day and along the same trail took photos of every blooming evening-primrose. One of them I could see had a moth. When I got home, I could see another plant had a moth and some eggs! Despite searching, I haven't been able to find any other Primrose Moths. And as I've learned since then, they can be quite localized and hard to find. I was just lucky enough to be in the right place at just the right time to find these cotton candy-colored cuties.
The Primrose Moth (Schinia florida) has a range from Nova Scotia to the Great Lakes region to northern Florida. Larvae go through five instars before burrowing in the ground to pupate overwinter. There is one generation per year, with the adult flight period timed to coincide with the bud development of its larval host plants. Adults are nocturnal, and often rest in the flowers of evening-primroses during the day.
The mimicry of the moth to the buds of the plant is such impressive camouflage. Looking at them side-by-side, you can definitely tell how someone could overlook a moth in the flowers of an evening-primrose.
Nature is amazing!
Photos by Jasmine Cupp
References: D.F. Hardwick (1970). "The life history of Schinia florida". Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society. 24 (4): 282-287.