Slender Flower Moth Charles W. Melton

Slender Flower Moth
Charles W. Melton

Class
Insecta (Insects)
Family
Noctuidae (Owlet Moths)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
S1
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
G4Q
Apparently Secure globally - Uncommon in the world but not rare; usually widespread, but may be rare in some parts of its range; possibly some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors. The Q indicates this species' status as a distinct full species is uncertain.

Summary

Did you know?

Female flower moths in the genus Schinia insert their eggs into flowers or developing fruits using a blade-like ovipositor (Wagner et al. 2008).

State Ranking Justification

The slender flower moth is typically associated with salt marshes. It was recorded historically on Long Island at Montauk and Orient. Currently, one population is known to exist in New York State. It is expected to be found in salt marshes on Long Island and nearby islands. Additional inventory is needed to determine its status in the state.

Short-term Trends

The short-term trend for this species is unknown in New York State. Only one individual has been documented on one occasion in recent decades in the state.

Long-term Trends

The long-term trend for this species is unknown in New York State. The species was recorded historically on Long Island at Montauk and Orient. Additional surveys are needed to determine if the species is still present at these locations. The species is expected to be found in salt marshes on Long Island and other nearby islands, unless mosquito spraying has eliminated it.

Conservation and Management

Threats

The threats to this species in New York State are uncertain. Elimination and fragmentation of habitat, as well as mosquito spraying, are probably the most significant threats to this species.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Areas where this species may be found should be evaluated to avoid additional encroachment or fragmentation by development. In addition, minimizing lighting to maintain dark sky conditions and minimizing mosquito spraying would be beneficial.

Research Needs

The life history of this species is poorly known. A seaside goldenrod, groundsel tree, and salt marsh elder are suggested food sources; research should be conducted to determine the food source of this species in New York State.

Habitat

Habitat

The slender flower moth is typically found in salt marshes. The one individual documented in recent decades in New York State was captured in a Phragmites/salt marsh.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • High salt marsh* (guide)
    A coastal marsh community that occurs in sheltered areas of the seacoast, in a zone extending from mean high tide up to the limit of spring tides. It is periodically flooded by spring tides and flood tides. High salt marshes typically consist of a mosaic of patches that are mostly dominated by a single graminoid species. * probable association but not confirmed.

Range

New York State Distribution

This species is probably confined to salt marshes on Long Island and nearby islands.

Global Distribution

The global distribution of this species is unclear because the correct application of the species names bifascia and gracilenta remains unclear. Hardwick (1996) states that Schinia bifascia Hubner, 1818 is synonymous with S. gracilenta Hubner, 1818, and he places both under the name S. gracilenta. The range of S. gracilenta is thought to occur from Nebraska to southeastern Massachusetts south to Florida and Texas (Hardwick 1996; Wagner et al. 2008), but this range might include the collective range of two species (Wagner et al. 2008). Heppner (2003) states that the range of S. gracilenta is wider, extending to Arizona. The facts appear to be these: there is a larger Midwestern (prairie?) and southeastern species that is well illustrated as bifascia in the Rings et al. (1992) Ohio noctuids book. Apparently this species is consistently identified as bifascia. There is a different coastal (Massachusetts to Texas) salt marsh species widely known under both names and well represented under both names from Long Island, New York at the US National Museum and elsewhere. New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts track the salt marsh species found in their states under the name S. bifascia.

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

The slender flower moth is cryptically colored. Similar to many other flower moths (Wagner et al. 2008), its coloration may be variable. Moths classified as Schinia gracilenta, which may be synonymous with S. bifascia (Hardwick 1996), have been documented to occur in various shades of gray and olive green (Brou 2007). The wingspan is approximately 28 mm. The caterpillar has a head that is large relative to the rest of the body (Wagner et al. 2008).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

The adult is the best life stage for identification.

Behavior

This species has one annual generation. Individuals perch and feed on the surface of flowers. Eggs are laid in flowers. The eggs develop quickly, and the larval (caterpillar) stage is usually three to four weeks or less. Mature caterpillars develop in the fall. Pupation occurs under the ground (Wagner et al. 2008).

Diet

The food source of this species is unknown. A seaside goldenrod, groundsel tree, and salt marsh elder are suggested food sources. Moths classified as Schinia gracilenta, which may be synonymous with S. bifascia (Hardwick 1996), have been documented to use annual marsh elder (Iva annua) as a food source for larvae, and to often be found with marsh elder (Iva frutescens) in salt marshes in North Carolina (Wagner et al. 2008). I. annua does not occur in New York State, but marsh elder (I. frutescens ssp. oraria) is characteristic of salt shrub communities in New York State, and is an associated species in the state's coastal salt ponds, brackish interdunal swales, and sea level fens.

Best Time to See

The best time to see slender flower moths in New York State is during their flight season, from late July to early August.

  • Present
  • Reproducing

The time of year you would expect to find Slender Flower Moth present and reproducing in New York.

Slender Flower Moth Images

Taxonomy

Slender Flower Moth
Schinia bifascia Hübner, 1818

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

Comments on the Classification

The correct application of the species names bifascia and gracilenta remains unclear. While Hardwick (1996) sinks Schinia bifascia Hubner, 1818 to S. gracilenta Hubner, 1818, his discussion provides no resolution. Hardwick also seemed unaware that there are separate salt marsh and inland species involved. Both original illustrations and descriptions are too crude to allow determination as to which species they represent. The Type Locality is "Georgia" for both names and for synonym divergens, while "synonym" digitalis from Dallas, Texas presumably is the inland species. Presumably both species occur in Georgia. The facts appear to be these: there is a larger Midwestern (prairie?) and southeastern species that is well illustrated as bifascia in the Rings et al. (1992) Ohio noctuids book. Apparently this species is consistently identified as bifascia. There is a different coastal (Massachusetts to Texas) salt marsh species widely known under both names and well represented under both names from Long Island, New York at the US National Museum and elsewhere. Neither species appears to be globally rare. The name S. bifascia is used here because two other states (New Jersey and Massachusetts) in addition to New York track the salt marsh species under this name and this usage may be correct.

Additional Resources

References

Brou Jr., Vernon A. 2007. Schinia gracilenta (Hubner) in Louisiana. South. Lepid. News 29:149.

Hardwick, D. F. 1996. A monograph of the New World Heliothentinae (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Centre for Land and Biological Resources Research, Agriculture Canada, Ottawa Canada. 281 pp., 24 color plates.

Heppner, J.B. 2003. Lepidoptera of Florida. Part 1. Introduction and catalog. Arthropods of Florida and Neighboring Areas. Volume 17. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Gainesville. 670 p.

NatureServe. 2010. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available http://www.natureserve.org/explorer. (Data last updated August 2010)

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

North American Moth Photographers Group at the Mississippi Entomological Museum. No date. Mississippi State University, Mississippi. http://mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu/MainMenu.shtml

Rings, R. W., E. H. Metzler, F. J. Arnold, and D. H. Harris. 1992. The Owlet Moths of Ohio (Order Lepidoptera, family Noctuidae). Ohio Biol. Surv. Bull. New Series, Vol. 9, no. 2, vi. + 219 pp., 16 color plates.

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. B. Sullivan, and R. C. Reardon. 2008. Owlet Caterpillars of Eastern North America (Lepidoptera: Noctudiae)

Links

About This Guide

This guide was authored by: Andrea Chaloux

Information for this guide was last updated on: March 7, 2012

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. Online Conservation Guide for Schinia bifascia. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/slender-flower-moth/. Accessed May 20, 2019.

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