Female flower moths in the genus Schinia insert their eggs into flowers or developing fruits using a blade-like ovipositor (Wagner et al. 2008).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This species is probably confined to salt marshes on Long Island and nearby islands.
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.
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).
The adult is the best life stage for identification.
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).
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.
The best time to see slender flower moths in New York State is during their flight season, from late July to early August.
The time of year you would expect to find Slender Flower Moth present and reproducing in New York.
Slender Flower Moth
Schinia gracilenta Hübner, 1818
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.
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. 2022. 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)
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. 2022. Online Conservation Guide for Schinia gracilenta. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/slender-flower-moth/. Accessed July 2, 2022.