Black-bordered Lemon Moth

Marimatha nigrofimbria (Guenée, 1852)

Thioptera nigrofimbria
Jim Vargo

Insecta (Insects)
Noctuidae (Owlet Moths)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

When handled "roughly," the caterpillar of this species can wriggle violently in addition to regurgitating a yellow-green fluid (Wagner et al. 2011).

State Ranking Justification

There are two extant occurrences on Long Island which is the northern portion of its range.

Short-term Trends

The short-term trends are unknown.

Long-term Trends

The long-term trends are unknown.

Conservation and Management


The threats to this species in New York State are uncertain. Potential threats include artificial lighting and insecticide use. This species is attracted to artificial lighting. Artificial lighting can: increase predation risk, disrupt behaviors such as feeding, flight, and reproduction, and interfere with dispersal between habitat patches. In addition, many individuals die near the light source. It is not known if the impact of artificial lighting is severe, but the impact is likely greater for small, isolated populations (Schweitzer et al. 2011). The use of insecticides and biocontrols can also eliminate or greatly impact many non-target species populations.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Minimizing lighting to maintain dark sky conditions would be beneficial. When lighting is necessary, it's best to use lights that emit red or yellow light because insects are generally not attracted to those colors. However, many sodium lights, which emit yellow light, are so bright that they do attract some insects. The best lighting appears to be low pressure sodium lights which have little effect on flying insects (Schweitzer et al. 2011).

Insecticide use should be avoided when possible if rare species are present. When insecticide use cannot be avoided, careful planning along with consistent rare species monitoring, can result in successful eradication of the target species without eliminating rare species. A biocontrol alternative is Bacillus thuringiensis (Btk) for some target species, such as spongy moths. However, sensitivity to Btk varies among native species and this option should be fully researched for treatment timing and regimes and weighed with other options to have the least impact on native lepidopteran populations (Schweitzer et al. 2011).

Research Needs

Additional research is needed to determine habitat needs in New York.



In New York, black-bordered lemon moths have been found at the edges of the following habitats: maritime heathland, maritime dunes, maritime grassland, and sea level fen.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Maritime dunes* (guide)
    A community dominated by grasses and low shrubs that occurs on active and stabilized dunes along the Atlantic coast. The composition and structure of the vegetation is variable depending on stability of the dunes, amounts of sand deposition and erosion, and distance from the ocean.
  • Maritime grassland* (guide)
    A grassland community that occurs on rolling outwash plains of the glaciated portion of the Atlantic coastal plain, near the ocean and within the influence of offshore winds and salt spray.
  • Maritime heathland* (guide)
    A dwarf shrubland community that occurs on rolling outwash plains and moraine of the glaciated portion of the Atlantic coastal plain, near the ocean and within the influence of onshore winds and salt spray.
  • Sea level fen* (guide)
    A wetland that occurs at the upper edge of salt marshes but is fed primarily by acidic groundwater seeping out along the upland edge. This fresh water sometimes mixes with salt or brackish water during unusually high tides. There is a high abundance of sedges that decompose slowly and create a deep substrate of peat. This peat is underlain by deep sand or gravel. These fens usually have a high diversity of herbs but may also have scattered trees and shrubs.

* probable association but not confirmed.


New York State Distribution

This species has been found in Suffolk County, Long Island, the northern part of its range.

Global Distribution

Black-bordered lemon moths can be found from Massachusetts to Florida, west to Missouri and Texas (Covell 1984).

Best Places to See

  • Hither Hills State Park (Suffolk County)
  • Napeague State Park (Suffolk County)

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

The black-bordered lemon moth has a wingspan ranging from 1.8 to 2.2 cm. Forewings are "lemon" yellow with a blackish outer border. Black claviform and reniform spots are present on the forewings. Some specimens also have black orbicular spots. Hindwings are yellow with "light grayish brown outer shading" (Covell 1984). The larvae are small (2 cm) and bright green with white longitudinal stripes. The subdorsal white stripe is the most prominent as it is twice the width of the other stripes. Setae are darkened with prominent, upward-curving seta arising from the upper portion of the anal proleg just below the anal plate. The head, legs, and prolegs have a pale orange cast. Spiracles are straw-colored (Wagner et al. 2011).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification



Feculae can be "thrown" from the caterpillar's perch with a whip of the terminal abdominal segments. When handled "roughly," the caterpillar of this species can wriggle violently in addition to regurgitating a yellow-green fluid (Wagner et al. 2011).


Known foodplants include crabgrass and morning glories (Covell 1984). Wagner et al. (2011) stated that caterpillars feed on panic grass and bluegrass while in captivity.

Best Time to See

Covell (1984) states that adults are present from June to September. Schweitzer (1998) stated that black-bordered lemon moth adults are present from June to October in New Jersey. Specific information is not available for New York at this time.

  • Present
  • Active

The time of year you would expect to find Black-bordered Lemon Moth present and active in New York.

Black-bordered Lemon Moth Images


Black-bordered Lemon Moth
Marimatha nigrofimbria (Guenée, 1852)

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Arthropoda (Mandibulates)
      • Class Insecta (Insects)
        • Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies, Skippers, and Moths)
          • Family Noctuidae (Owlet Moths)

Additional Resources


Covell, Charles V. 1984. A field guide to the moths of eastern North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

Forbes, William T. M. 1954. Lepidoptera of New York and neighboring states part III. Cornell University Experiment Station Memoir 329.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Schweitzer, D.F., M.C. Minno, and D.L. Wagner. 2011. Rare, Declining, and Poorly Known Butterflies and Moths (Lepidoptera) of Forests and Woodlands in the Eastern United States. USFS Technology Transter Bulletin, FHTET-2009-02.

Schweitzer, Dale F. 1998. Rare, potentially rare, and historic macrolepidoptera for Long Island, New York: A suggested inventory list.

Wagner, D.L., D.F. Schweitzer, J. Bolling Sullivan, R.C. Reardon. 2011. Owlet Caterpillars of Eastern North America. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ.


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: June 28, 2012

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Marimatha nigrofimbria. Available from: Accessed July 19, 2024.