Minnesota Moths

Order Lepidoptera

Lepidoptera is the order of insects that is characterized by having four large wings; mouthparts adapting for sucking, the proboscis in the form of a long coiled tube; and wings and body completely or mostly covered by scales. The order includes butterflies, skippers, and moths.

There are about 174,250 known species in 126 families worldwide, 12,423 species in 82 families in North America north of Mexico. There are at least 531 Lepidoptera species found in Minnesota.

No Taxonomic Rank: Moths

Differentiating moths and butterflies is complicated because on the tree of evolution (phylogenetically) butterflies are moths. Moths is a paraphyletic group, meaning that all are descendant from a common ancestor but not all of the descendants of that ancestor are moths. The order Lepidoptera contains four suborders. The suborders Aglossata, Heterobathmiina, and Zeugloptera are all moths. The suborder Glossata contains 44 superfamilies. Two of those superfamilies are butterflies, the remaining superfamilies are moths.

Moths have feathery or or thread-like antennae without knobs at the end. When at rest, moths hold their wings roof-like over their body, curled around their body, or flat against a support. All other differences have exceptions. Most moths fly at night, are smaller, and have drab wings. Most moths have one or more bristles (frenulum) and scales (retinaculum) that hold their forewings in contact with their hindwings. No butterflies have this feature.

About 93% of Lepidoptera species are moths. According The Lepidopterist’s Society, there are about 127,600 moth species worldwide, about 10,850 species in North America. There may also be between 1,500 and 3,500 undescribed species, mostly micromoths (Microlepidoptera). There are at least 370 moth species found in Minnesota.

cecropia moth







Recent Additions
Armyworm moth

Armyworm moth (Mythimna unipuncta), also called true armyworm and the white speck. is a migratory wainscot moth. It is medium-sized for a moth, large for a wainscot moth. It occurs in Europe, northern Africa, Iceland, North America, Central America, and northern South America. It is common throughout the United States and Canada, common and sometimes abundant in Minnesota. It does not survive cold winters. Adults migrate south in the fall and a later generation disperses north in the spring. Adults are found in Minnesota from March to November. Caterpillars feed on leaves and sometimes seed heads of mostly grains and other grasses, but also many broadleaf plants close to their infestations. After defoliating a stand of plants, they will move as a group to a nearby stand and resume feeding. They are often a serious agricultural pest, especially on wheat and corn.

Armyworm moths are ¾ to 1 long. Their forewings are tan with dark peppering and a small but conspicuous white spot. The caterpillar is up to 2 long.

  Photo by Alfredo Colon
American dagger moth

Dagger Moths (genus Acronicta) is a large genus with about 150 species worldwide, more than 73 species in North America north of Mexico. At least 28 species have been reported in Minnesota. The common name refers to a black, dagger-like dash on the forewings of many of the species. Most are gray with darker gray markings, and are difficult to identify.

American dagger moth (Acronicta americana) is the largest dagger moth in eastern United States. The adult is up to 1½ long and has a wingspan of up to 2½. It is gray or brownish-gray with dark markings and a black “dagger”. It is found in deciduous woodlands and forests across the United States and southern Canada. It is common and sometimes abundant east of the Great Plains, common in Minnesota.

The caterpillar is large and is covered with yellow or white hairs. It has two pairs of long black lashes near the front of the abdomen and a single thicker lash near the end. The lashes are tight groups of bristles. When the caterpillar is handled the bristles break off and embed in the skin of the handler. They contain a toxin which causes stinging and burning and can develop into a rash.

  American dagger moth
  Photo by Alfredo Colon
Pandorus sphinx

Pandorus sphinx (Eumorpha pandorus) is a very large, dramatically patterned, sphinx moth. It is common and widespread in eastern United States. Adults fly at dusk from May to September. They have a wingspan of 3¼ to 4½, and a pale green background with a complex pattern of dark olive-green markings.

Humans are more likely to encounter caterpillars than adults. Known as hornworms, the caterpillars are found on grape and Virginia creeper in Minnesota, and also on peppervine elsewhere. They are very large, up to 3½ long, and consume copious amounts of foliage. They can completely defoliate young grape vines, ultimately killing them. Older vines can withstand the damage.

Pandorus sphinx is similar in appearance to Achemon sphinx (Eumorpha achemon). The latter species is smaller and less common, and the adults are brown, not green.

  pandorus sphinx
  Photo by Chad & Autumn Brekke
Sigmoid prominent

Sigmoid prominent (Clostera albosigma) is a medium-sized, heavy-bodied, nocturnal moth. It is the most common of the four Clostera species found in Minnesota. Adult moths are found from mid-May to mid-August in deciduous woodlands and forests, and in shrubby wetlands and fields.

A sigmoid prominent adult has grayish-brown wings, a dark brown head and upper thorax, and on the male, a dark brown tuft at the end of the abdomen. The wings are crossed by four pale lines. A dark, chestnut-brown area near the end of the forewing is sharply delineated by a prominent white “S”-shaped bar. The species name albosigma means “white S” and refers to this marking. Spring individuals are darker with more highly contrasting markings. Summer individuals are paler and less conspicuously marked.

The caterpillar feeds mostly on quaking aspen, but also on poplar and willow, and sometimes on alder, birch, maple, and elm. It is a solitary feeder. During the day it curls up a leaf of a host plant and sticks it together with silk webbing, make a shelter where it can feed in safety. Adults do not feed.

  sigmoid prominent
  Photo by Bill Reynolds
Pink underwing

Pink underwing (Catocala concumbens) is a medium to large sized, strikingly colored, underwing moth. It is common from northeastern United States, west to the Upper Midwest, and north to Manitoba and Alberta. In Minnesota it is more common in the northern half of the state.

Pink underwing adults are 1¼ to 1½ in length and have a wingspan of 2 to 3. The forewings are a nondescript, mottled gray and tan with a pale, kidney-shaped spot and two thin, jagged, black lines. The hindings are pink two black bands and a wide white fringe. They are active at night. When at rest the wings are folded roof-like over the body. When approached or disturbed they spread their forewings revealing the startling color of the hindwings, possibly to scare off or give it time to escape a predator.

There are 39 underwing moth species found in Minnesota, and most are similar in appearance. Pink underwing is distinguished by the pale colors and paler reniform spot on the forewings; and by the pink hindwings with a wide, straight, uninterrupted, white fringe.

  pink underwing
  Photo by Bill Reynolds
Other Recent Additions

lucerne moth (Nomophila nearctica)

omnivorous leafroller (Archips purpurana)

copper underwing (Amphipyra pyramidoides)

little white lichen moth (Clemensia albata)

dark-spotted palthis (Palthis angulalis)

dark-banded owlet (Phalaenophana pyramusalis)

  lucerne moth
  Photo by Alfredo Colon









This list includes only moths that have been recorded in Minnesota, but not all moths found in Minnesota.

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afflicted dagger moth

American dagger moth

arcigera flower moth


asteroid moth

banded tussock moth

Bethune’s pinion




blackberry looper

blinded sphinx









carrot seed moth

cecropia moth

celery looper

chestnut-marked pondweed moth

chickweed geometer

clearwing moth (Carmenta ithacae)

common eupithecia

common grass-veneer

common tan wave

copper underwing

dark-banded owlet

dark-spotted palthis

darling underwing

dingy cutworm moth

dogbane saucrobotys moth

eastern tent caterpillar

elegant grass-veneer

forage looper moth

forest tent caterpillar

galium sphinx

geometer moth (Family Geometridae)

geometer moth (Xanthotype sp.)

giant leopard moth

golden borer

grapevine epimenis

greater black-letter dart

hitched arches

hummingbird clearwing

io moth

Isabella tiger moth

laurel sphinx

Leconte’s haploa

lesser appleworm moth

lesser maple spanworm moth

little white lichen moth

lucerne moth

maple twig borer moth

milkweed tussock moth

metarranthis moth (Metarranthis sp.)

neighbor moth

nessus sphinx

Norman’s quaker

northern flower moth

oak besma

omnivorous leafroller

one-eyed sphinx

pandorus sphinx

pink underwing

polyphemus moth







ragwort stem borer moth

reversed haploa

Robin’s carpenterworm





Schlaeger’s fruitworm moth

sigmoid prominent

signate quaker

simple wave

small mocis

smeared dagger

snowberry clearwing

speckled green fruitworm moth

spotted grass moth

squash vine borer

stout spanworm moth



three-lined leafroller moth

toothed somberwing

twirler moth (Scrobipalpula manierreorum)

ursula wainscot

vagabond crambus

Virginia ctenucha

Virginian tiger moth

white slant-line

white underwing

white-lined sphinx

white-marked tussock moth

white-striped black

xylenine sallow (Eupsilia sp.)

yarrow plume moth

yellow slant-line

yellow-collared scape moth

yellow-dusted cream moth


Unknown Moths


Abbott’s sphinx (Sphecodina abbottii)


abbreviated underwing (Catocala abbreviatella)


achemon sphinx (Eumorpha achemon)

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afflicted dagger moth (Acronicta afflicta)

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American dagger moth (Acronicta americana)


angled metarranthis (Metarranthis angularia)


angle-lined prominent (Clostera inclusa)


angulose prominent (Peridea angulosa)


apical prominent (Clostera apicalis)


apple sphinx (Sphinx gordius)


arched hooktip (Drepana arcuata)

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arcigera flower moth (Schinia arcigera)

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armyworm moth (Mythimna unipuncta)


artichoke plume moth (Platyptilia carduidactylus)


aster leafminer moth (Leucospilapteryx venustella)

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asteroid moth (Cucullia asteroides)


ash tip borer (Papaipema furcata)


aster leafminer moth (Leucospilapteryx venustella)


azalea sphinx (Darapsa choerilus)


banded tiger moth (Apantesis vittata)

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banded tussock moth (Halysidota tessellaris)

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Bethune’s pinion (Lithophane bethunei)


bicolored moth (Manulea bicolor)


big poplar sphinx (Pachysphinx occidentalis)


birch-leaf blotchminer moth (Cameraria betulivora)


black-crescent proteoteras moth (Proteoteras crescentana)


black-rimmed prominent (Pheosia rimosa)


black-spotted prominent (Dasylophia anguina)

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blackberry looper (Chlorochlamys chloroleucaria)

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blinded sphinx (Paonias excaecata)


bracken borer (Papaipema pterisii)


briseis underwing (Catocala briseis)


buck moth (Hemileuca maia)


burdock borer (Papaipema cataphracta)


cabbage looper (Trichoplusia ni)


Canadian sphinx (Sphinx canadensis)


Carolina sphinx (Manduca sexta)

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carrot seed moth (Sitochroa palealis)


catalpa sphinx (Ceratomia catalpae)

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cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia)

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celery looper (Anagrapha falcifera)


charming underwing (Catocala blandula)

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chestnut-marked pondweed moth (Parapoynx badiusalis)

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chickweed geometer (Haematopis grataria)


chocolate prominent (Peridea ferruginea)

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clearwing moth (Carmenta ithacae)


Clinton’s underwing (Catocala clintonii)


clouded underwing (Catocala nebulosa)


clover looper moth (Caenurgina crassiuscula)


clymene moth (Haploa clymene)


Columbia silkmoth (Hyalophora columbia)


columbine borer (Papaipema leucostigma)

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common eupithecia (Eupithecia miserulata)


common gluphisia (Gluphisia septentrionis)

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common grass-veneer (Crambus praefectellus)


common looper moth (Autographa precationis)


common metarranthis (Metarranthis hypochraria)


common spring moth (Heliomata cycladata)

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common tan wave (Pleuroprucha insulsaria)


confused eusarca (Eusarca confusaria)


confused haploa (Haploa confusa)


connubial underwing (Catocala connubialis)


contracted datana (Datana contracta)

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copper underwing (Amphipyra pyramidoides)


crocus geometer moth (Xanthotype sospeta)


currant clearwing borer (Synanthedon tipuliformis)


currant pug (Eupithecia assimilata)

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dark-banded owlet (Phalaenophana pyramusalis)

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dark-spotted palthis (Palthis angulalis)

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darling underwing (Catocala cara)


delicate cycnia (Cycnia tenera)

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dingy cutworm moth (Feltia jaculifera)

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dogbane saucrobotys moth (Saucrobotys futilalis)

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dogwood borer (Synanthedon scitula)


double-lined prominent (Lochmaeus bilineata)


double-toothed prominent (Nerice bidentata)


dull reddish dart (Xestia dilucida)

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eastern tent caterpillar moth (Malacosoma americanum)

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elegant grass-veneer (Microcrambus elegans)


elegant prominent (Odontosia elegans)


ello sphinx (Erinnyis ello)


elm sphinx (Ceratomia amyntor)


epione underwing (Catocala epione)


eupatorium plume moth (Oidaematophorus eupatorii)


European yellow underwing (Noctua pronuba)


fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea)


false crocus geometer moth (Xanthotype urticaria)


fir needle inchworm (Eupithecia luteata)


five-spotted hawkmoth (Manduca quinquemaculata)


Fletcher’s larch looper (Eupithecia fletcherata)

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forage looper moth (Caenurgina erechtea)

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forest tent caterpillar moth (Malacosoma disstria)

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galium sphinx (Hyles gallii)

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geometer moths (Family Geometridae)

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geometer moth (Xanthotype spp.)


Georgian prominent (Hyperaeschra georgica)

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giant leopard moth (Hypercompe scribonia)


girlfriend underwing (Catocala amica)

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golden borer (Papaipema cerina)


goldenrod spindle-gall moth (Gnorimoschema gallaesolidaginis)


grape leaf miner moth (Phyllocnistis vitegenella)


grape leaf miner moth (Phyllocnistis vitifoliella)


grape plume moth (Geina periscelidactylus)

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grapevine epimenis (Psychomorpha epimenis)


gray furcula (Furcula cinerea)


great ash sphinx (Sphinx chersis)


great tiger moth (Arctia caja)

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greater black-letter dart (Xestia dolosa)


green cloverworm moth (Hypena scabra)


habilis underwing (Catocala habilis)


hawthorn underwing (Catocala crataegi)


hermit sphinx (Lintneria eremitus)


hickory tussock moth (Lophocampa caryae)


Himmelman’s plume moth (Geina tenuidactylus)

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hitched arches (Melanchra adjuncta)

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hummingbird clearwing (Hemaris thysbe)


ilia underwing (Catocala ilia)


indigo stem borer (Papaipema baptisiae)

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io moth (Automeris io)

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Isabella tiger moth (Pyrrharctia isabella)


joe-pye-weed borer (Papaipema eupatorii)


Judith’s underwing (Catocala judith)


juniper looper moth (Eupithecia interruptofasciata)


larch pug moth (Eupithecia annulata)


large lace-border (Scopula limboundata)

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laurel sphinx (Sphinx kalmiae)


leadplant flower moth (Schinia lucens)

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Leconte’s haploa (Haploa lecontei)

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lesser appleworm moth (Grapholita prunivora)

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lesser maple spanworm moth (Macaria pustularia)


lesser peachtree borer (Synanthedon pictipes)


lesser viburnum clearwing moth (Synanthedon fatifera)


lettered habrosyne (Habrosyne scripta)


lettered sphinx (Deidamia inscriptum)


linden looper (Erannis tiliaria)


linden prominent (Ellida caniplaga)


little carpenterworm (Prionoxystus macmurtrei)


little underwing (Catocala minuta)

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little white lichen moth (Clemensia albata)


lost sallow (Eupsilia devia)

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lucerne moth (Nomophila nearctica)


luna moth (Actius luna)


maple bud borer moth (Proteoteras moffatiana)


maple callus borer (Synanthedon acerni)

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maple twig borer moth (Proteoteras aesculana)


maritime sunflower borer (Papaipema maritima)


meadow rue borer (Papaipema unimoda)

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metarranthis moth (Metarranthis spp.)

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milkweed tussock moth (Euchaetes egle)


modest furcula (Furcula modesta)


modest sphinx (Pachysphinx modesta)


morning-glory plume moth (Emmelina monodactyla)


Morrison’s sallow (Eupsilia morrisoni)


mother underwing (Catocala parta)


mournful thyris (Thyris sepulchris)


nais tiger moth (Apantesis nais)


neighbor moth (Haploa contigua)

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nessus sphinx (Amphion floridensis)


Nevada buck moth (Hemileuca nevadensis)


Norman’s dart (Xestia normaniana)

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Norman’s quaker (Crocigrapha normani)


North American gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar dispar)


northern apple sphinx (Sphinx poecila)


northern burdock borer (Papaipema arctivorens)

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northern flower moth (Schinia septentrionalis)


northern pine sphinx (Lapara bombycoides)


northern variable dart (Xestia badicollis)


northern willow clearwing (Synanthedon bolteri)

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oak besma (Besma quercivoraria)


obscure sphinx (Erinnyis obscura)


obscure underwing (Catocala obscura)


oldwife underwing (Catocala palaeogama)

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omnivorous leafroller (Archips purpurana)


once-married underwing (Catocala unijuga)

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one-eyed sphinx (Smerinthus cerisyi)


orange-tipped oakworm moth (Anisota senatoria)


ornate moth (Utetheisa ornatrix)

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pandorus sphinx (Eumorpha pandorus)


peachtree borer (Synanthedon exitiosa)


penitent underwing (Catocala piatrix)


phlox moth (Schinia indiana)

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pink underwing (Catocala concumbens)


pink-spotted hawkmoth (Agrius cingulata)


pink-striped oakworm moth (Anisota virginiensis)


pink-striped willow spanworm (Cabera variolaria)


pitch mass borer (Synanthedon pini)

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polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus)


praeclara underwing (Catocala praeclara)


promethea moth (Callosamia promethea)


pug moth (Eupithecia bowmani)


pug moth (Eupithecia columbiata)


pug moth (Eupithecia swettii)


ragweed flower moth (Schinia rivulosa)


ragweed plume moth (Adaina ambrosiae)

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ragwort stem borer moth (Papaipema insulidens)


red maple borer (Synanthedon acerrubri)


residua underwing (Catocala residua)

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reversed haploa (Haploa reversa)


rigid sunflower borer (Papaipema rigida)

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Robin’s carpenterworm (Prionoxystus robiniae)


Robinson’s underwing (Catocala robinsonii)


rose plume moth (Cnaemidophorus rhododactyla)


rosy maple moth (Dryocampa rubicunda)


ruddy metarranthis (Metarranthis duaria)


saddled prominent (Heterocampa guttivitta)


salt marsh moth (Estigmene acrea)


satyr pug moth (Eupithecia satyrata)


scarlet underwing (Catocala coccinata)

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Schlaeger’s fruitworm moth (Antaeotricha schlaegeri)


semirelict underwing (Catocala semirelicta)


sensetive fern borer (Papaipema inquaesita)


setaceous Hebrew character (Xestia c-nigrum)


Sidus sallow (Eupsilia sidus)

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sigmoid prominent (Clostera albosigma)

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signate quaker (Tricholita signata)


silphius borer (Papaipema silphii)


similar underwing (Catocala similis)

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simple wave (Scopula junctaria)


slender pug (Eupithecia tenuiata)

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small mocis (Mocis latipes)


small pine looper (Eupithecia palpata)


small-eyed sphinx (Paonias myops)

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smeared dagger (Acronicta oblinita)


Smith’s dart (Xestia smithii)

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snowberry clearwing (Hemaris diffinis)


snowy geometer (Eugonobapta nivosaria)


sordid underwing (Catocala sordida)

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speckled green fruitworm moth (Orthosia hibisci)


sphinx moth (Family Sphingidae)


spiny oakworm moth (Anisota stigma)

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spotted grass moth (Rivula propinqualis)


spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana)


spurge hawkmoth (Hyles euphorbiae)

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squash vine borer (Melittia cucurbitae)


stalk borer (Papaipema nebris)

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stout spanworm moth (Lycia ursaria)


straight-toothed sallow (Eupsilia vinulenta)


straw besma (Besma endropiaria)


sunflower borer (Papaipema necopina)


sweetfern underwing (Catocala antinympha)


sweetheart underwing (Catocala amatrix)


tawny eupithecia (Eupithecia ravocostaliata)


tearful underwing (Catocala lacrymosa)


tersa sphinx (Xylophanes tersa)


the bride (Catocala neogama)


the little nymph (Catocala micronympha)


the old maid (Catocala badia coelebs)

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three-lined leafroller moth (Pandemis limitata)


titan sphinx (Aellopos titan)

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toothed somberwing (Euclidia cuspidea)


turtle head borer (Papaipema nepheleptena)


twin-spotted sphinx (Smerinthus jamaicensis)


twirler moth (Scrobipalpula artemisiella)

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twirler moth (Scrobipalpula manierreorum)


two-lined hooktip (Drepana bilineata)


ultronia underwing (Catocala ultronia)


umbellifer borer (Papaipema birdi)


unicorn prominent (Schizura unicornis)

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ursula wainscot (Leucania ursula)

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vagabond crambus (Agriphila vulgivagellus)


vashti sphinx (Sphinx vashti)


viburnum clearwing (Synanthedon viburni)


Virginia creeper sphinx (Darapsa myron)

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Virginia ctenucha (Ctenucha virginica)

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Virginian tiger moth (Spilosoma virginica)


walnut caterpillar moth (Datana integerrima)


walnut sphinx (Amorpha juglandis)


waved sphinx (Ceratomia undulosa)


western furcula (Furcula occidentalis)

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western tent caterpillar moth (Malacosoma californicum)

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white slant-line (Tetracis cachexiata)

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white underwing (Catocala relicta)


white-blotched heterocampa (Heterocampa umbrata)


white-dotted prominent (Nadata gibbosa)

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white-lined sphinx (Hyles lineata)

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white-marked tussock moth (Orgyia leucostigma)


white-streaked prominent (Oligocentria lignicolor)

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white-striped black (Trichodezia albovittata)


Whitney“s underwing (Catocala whitneyi)


widow underwing (Catocala vidua)


wild cherry sphinx (Sphinx drupiferarum)


wonderful underwing (Catocala mira)


woody underwing (Catocala grynea)


wormwood pug (Eupithecia absinthiata)

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xylenine sallows (Eupsilia spp.)

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yarrow plume moth (Gillmeria pallidactyla)


yellow slant-line (Tetracis crocallata)


yellow-banded underwing (Catocala cerogama)

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yellow-collared scape moth (Cisseps fulvicollis)

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yellow-dusted cream moth (Cabera erythemaria)


yellow-gray underwing (Catocala retecta)


youthful underwing (Catocala subnata)




No Species Page Yet?

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Capitalization of Common Names

Insect scientific names are governed by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). Vernacular (common) names are not. In an attempt to “assure the uniformity of (common) names of common insects” the Entomological Society of America (ESA) published Common Names of Insects and Related Organisms. ESA has no rule or guideline that addresses capitalization of common names. However, the database of common names published by ESA does not capitalize common names. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) also uses uncapitalized common names. Most other sources, including ITIS, BAMONA, Odonata Central, and the Peterson Field Guides, capitalize common insect names. MinnesotaSeasons.com will adhere to the convention followed by ESA and NCBI.


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