olive-shaded bird-dropping moth

(Ponometia candefacta)

olive-shaded bird-dropping moth
Photo by Mike Poeppe
  Hodges #

9090

 
 
Conservation Status
  IUCN Red List

not listed

     
  NatureServe

NNR - Unranked

SNR - Unranked

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
 
Description
 
 

Olive-shaded bird-dropping moth is a small owlet moth. It occurs throughout the United States, in southern Canada from Nova Scotia to Manitoba, and in Mexico. It was introduced into southwestern U.S.S.R. in 1969 to control the spread of Ambrosia species. It is now successfully established as far north as Saint Petersburg. In the United States it is common from the East Coast to the Great Plains, less common in the southwest, and mostly absent from the mountain west and Pacific northwest. In Minnesota it is relatively uncommon in most of the state but locally common in some areas (CCESR). Adults are found in old fields, weedy disturbed areas, agricultural fields, and urban areas. Larvae feed on two species of ragweed (Ambrosia spp.), only one of which, western ragweed (Ambrosia psilostachya), occurs in Minnesota. They have been raised on other Ambrosia species in the lab, but apparently do not use those species as hosts in nature.

Adults are long and narrow. They are ½ (12 mm) in length and have a 1116 to (18 to 22 mm) wingspan.

The forewings are narrow, rounded at the tip, and white, with gray markings and yellowish mottling. The pattern on the forewing resembles bird droppings. This is the feature that gives the family Acontiinae its common name. The basal and antemedial lines are represented by diffuse, light gray patches near the wing base. The median and postmedial lines are each represented by a dark gray patch on the leading edge (costal margin). Yellowish mottling in the median and subterminal areas appears olive-green or olive-brown when merging with a gray spot. This is the feature that gives the species its common name. The circular spot in the outer median area (orbicular spot) is tiny and black. The usually kidney-shaped spot in the outer median area (reniform spot) is on this species perfectly round and is outlined with white. A gray and olive-gray band begins as a large patch on the inner margin between the median and subterminal lines, extends through the reniform spot, and thins as it approaches the apex. A broad white area with two or three often connected gray spots separate the band from the terminal area. The terminal line consists of a row of dark dashes. The fringe is gray beyond the discal cell, at the apex, and at the anal angle, white between.

The hindwing is broader than the forewing. It is pale gray at the base grading to dark brown near the apex. There is a dark bar at the end of the cell and a thin dark terminal line. It is otherwise unmarked. The fringe on the hindwing is white.

The head and thorax are white. The antennae on both sexes are slender and thread-like.

The caterpillar is slender, lime green and white, and up to 1 (2.5 cm) long. It has just three pairs of leg-like structures (prolegs) on the abdomen, those on sections 3 and 4 (A3 and A4) missing. A8 is humped. The body is lime green with several thin, longitudinal, white stripes, and a thicker white line through the breathing pores (spiracles). A branch off the white line runs down each proleg. There is often a maroon spot above each spiracle. There are sparse, stiff, erect hairs (setae) on each abdominal segment. The setae do not have wart-like bumps at their base. The head is black with white mottling.

 
     
 

Size

 
 

Total Length: ½ (12 mm)

Wingspan: 1116 to (18 to 22 mm)

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
     
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Old fields, weedy disturbed areas, agricultural fields, and urban areas

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Season

 
 

One generation per year in Minnesota: June through August. Up to three generations further south.

 
     
 

Behavior

 
 

Adults are active at night and will come to light, but they can also be flushed from vegetation during the day.

 
     
 

Life Cycle

 
 

The pupa overwinters.

 
     
 

Larva Hosts

 
 

In Minnesota, western ragweed (Ambrosia psilostachya). In southwestern United States also slimleaf bursage (Ambrosia confertiflora).

 
     
 

Adult Food

 
 

 

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

21, 24, 27, 29, 30, 71, 75, 82.

 
  8/23/2021      
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Locally common in Minnesota

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
 

Order

Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)  
 

Suborder

Glossata  
 

Infraorder

Neolepidoptera  
  Parvorder Heteroneura  
  No Rank Ditrysia  
  No Rank Obtectomera  
 

Superfamily

Noctuoidea (noctuid moths)  
 

Family

Noctuidae (owlet moths)  
 

Subfamily

Acontiinae (bird-dropping moths)  
 

Tribe

Acontiini  
 

Genus

Ponometia  
       
 

This species was formerly placed in the genus Tarachidia.

 
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

Acontia debilis

Acontia neomexicana

Tarachidia candefacta

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

olive-shaded bird-dropping moth

olive-shaded bird lime moth

 
       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Cell

In Lepidoptera: the large central area of the wing surrounded by veins.

 

Costal margin

The leading edge of the forewing of insects.

 

Orbicular spot

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

 

Proleg

A fleshy structure on the abdomen of some insect larvae that functions as a leg, but lacks the five segments of a true insect leg.

 

Reniform spot

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

 

Seta

A stiff, hair-like process on the outer surface of an organism. In Lepidoptera: A usually rigid bristle- or hair-like outgrowth used to sense touch. In mosses: The stalk supporting a spore-bearing capsule and supplying it with nutrients. Plural: setae.

 

Spiracle

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

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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Mike Poeppe

 
 

It looks like a bird ... dropping moth but not sure? I was lucky enough to even see this little guy!

 
    olive-shaded bird-dropping moth      
           
 
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Other Videos
 
  Olive-sided Bird-dropping Moth (Noctuidae: Ponometia candefacta) Lateral View
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Aug 10, 2011

Photographed at the Turtle River State Park, North Dakota (10 August 2011). Thank you to Maury heiman (@Bugguide.net) for confirming the identity of this specimen!

 
       

 

Camcorder

 
 
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  Mike Poeppe
7/19/2021

Location: Houston County, MN

It looks like a bird ... dropping moth but not sure? I was lucky enough to even see this little guy!

olive-shaded bird-dropping moth

 
           
 
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Created: 8/23/2021

Last Updated:

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