forage looper moth

(Caenurgina erechtea)

forage looper moth
  Hodges #


Conservation Status
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure


not listed


Forage looper moth is a medium-sized, widespread and very common moth. It occurs throughout the United States, in adjacent Canadian provinces and Mexican states, and in China. It is very common in Minnesota. It is found in grasslands, meadows, old fields, and roadsides. It is often abundant in clover fields. Adults are to (17 to 23 mm) long and have a wingspan of 13 16 to 1 (30 to 42 mm). Females are larger and are colored differently than males. There are several broods each year from late April through September. Individuals in the summer broods are larger than those of the spring broods.

The forewing ground color of the male is pale bluish-gray. The terminal area is darker gray. A broad, oblique, brownish-black band in the antemedial area (AM band) curves toward the rear well before the inner margin. It ends close to but never reaches the inner margin. A similar but straight band in the postmedial area (PM band) ends well before the inner margin. The two bands do not meet. Two spots are important identifying features in many moths. The orbicular spot, in the upper median area, is a small, circular, dark gray dot. The reniform spot, in the lower median area, is large but not apparent. It is fused to and the same color as the PM band. There is a row of dark spots just before the subterminal area. The outer two spots are large, very dark, and sometimes fused together. The remaining spots are small and inconspicuous. The hindwings are light grayish-yellow with darker postmedial and submarginal bands and a dark terminal line. The antennae have a fringe of short hairs (ciliate).

On the female, the forewing color is pale reddish-brown and the dark areas are dark brown. The hindwings are more orangish. The thorax of both sexes is the same color as the ground color of the forewings. The antennae are not ciliate.

The caterpillar is slender and up to 19 16 (4 cm) long. It is highly variable in color and pattern, but is often tan to pale brown and striped. On the upper middle area there is a stripe (middorsal stripe) that consists of a thin white stripe that is bordered with an inner tan to reddish-brown stripe and an outer white stripe. On each side below the breathing pores (spiracles) there is a stripe (subspiracular stripe) that consists of a beige stripe bordered with two pale stripes. The middorsal and subspiracular stripes both extend onto the head. The subspiracular stripes extend to the antennae.




Total length: to (17 to 23 mm)

Wingspan: 13 16 to 1 (30 to 42 mm)


Similar Species

  Clover looper moth (Caenurgina crassiuscula) is always brown, never gray. On the forewing the AM band touches the inner margin. The AM and PM bands converge at the inner margin.  

Grasslands, meadows, old fields, roadsides




Several generations per year: Late April to November




Adults are active both day and night. Both sexes are attracted to lights.


Life Cycle


Pupae overwinter


Larva Hosts


Mostly plants in the pea (Fabaceae) family, especially clover, but also giant ragweed and grasses.


Adult Food




Distribution Map



7, 21, 24, 27, 29, 30, 71, 75.




Very common and widespread



Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)  


Noctuoidea (owlet moths and allies)  


Erebidae (underwing, tiger, tussock, and allied moths)  


Erebinae (underwings, zales, and related owlets)  





This genus and species was formerly included in the family Arctiidae. A molecular phylogenetic study on the noctuid moths (Superfamily Noctuidea) published in 2005 clarified the relationships of the noctuid moths and resulted in a reshuffling of the families and subfamilies. The current classification places this genus and species in the family Erebidae.




Phalaena erechtea


Common Names


common grass moth

forage looper

forage looper moth









Orbicular spot

A circular spot or outline in the upper median area near the antemedial line on the forewing of many moths.


Reniform spot

A kidney-shaped spot or outline in the lower median area near the PM line on the forewing of many moths.



A small opening on the surface of an insect through which the insect breathes.






Visitor Photos

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Alfredo Colon

    forage looper moth      

Dan W. Andree


Forage Looper Moth...

Funny little head and eyes on it.


  forage looper moth  
    forage looper moth      


    forage looper moth   forage looper moth  



Forage Looper (Caenurgina erechtea)
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Forage Looper (Caenurgina erechtea)  



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Forage Looper (Caenurgina erechtea) Close-up
Carl Barrentine

Published on May 18, 2013

This Forage Looper Moth (Caenurgina erechtea) seems genuinely annoyed by the advances of the all-too-eager paparazzo. Fisher, Minnesota (18 May 2013).

  Caenurgina erechtea

Published on Aug 19, 2014

Forage Looper Moth

  Forage Looper Moth (Erebidae: Caenurgina erechtea) in Grass
Carl Barrentine

Published on May 25, 2010

Photographed at Grand Forks North Dakota (25 May 2010).




Visitor Sightings

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  Alfredo Colon

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

forage looper moth  
  Dan W. Andree

Location: Frenchman’s Bluff SNA

Funny little head and eyes on it.

forage looper moth  




Created: 9/19/2019

Last Updated:

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