ragwort stem borer moth

(Papaipema insulidens)

ragwort stem borer moth
Photo by Alfredo Colon
  Hodges #


Conservation Status
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern


N4 - Apparently Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed


Ragwort stem borer moth is a mid-sized, late season, borer moth. There are two unconnected populations in North America. The eastern population extends from Maine to Minnesota south to North Carolina and Nebraska and includes adjacent Canadian provinces. The western population is in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The species is common within its range, uncommon in Minnesota where it is at the northwest extent of the range of the eastern population. It is found in the late summer and fall mostly in wetlands and alongside rivers and streams, but also in forests, open areas, and disturbed sites.

Adults are 11 16 (18 mm) long and have a wingspan of 1¼ to 17 16 (32 to 37 mm). The forewing is to ¾ (16 to 20 mm) long, broadly triangular, and slightly hooked at the tip. Dark areas transition smoothly (grade) into adjacent light areas. The dark areas reddish-orange, the light areas are yellow or cream-colored. The ground color is mostly reddish-orange. The basal area, the wing tip, the basal half of the inner margin, and a narrow patch on the leading (costal) margin are pale. The subterminal area is purplish-gray. The antemedial (AM) line is indistinct. The median line is reddish-brown to dark brown and undulating. The postmedial (PM) line is dark brown, smooth, and broadly curved. The terminal line is dark reddish-brown and thin. The fringe is dark purplish-gray. There is a circular spot (orbicular spot) in the upper median area, a club-shaped spot (claviform spot) between the orbicular spot and the inner margin, and a kidney-shaped spot (reniform spot) at the end of the discal cell. The orbicular spot is white with a thin, dark reddish-brown outline and a dark spot in the center. The claviform spot is large and white but broken into three small spots with dark brown outlines. The reniform spot is white with a thin, dark reddish-brown outline, a yellow to reddish-brown crescent in the center, and dark reddish-brown veins. The hindwings are light yellowish-gray tinged with reddish and gray.

The antennae are slender and thread-like on the female, bead-like on the male.




Total length: 11 16 (18 mm)

Wingspan: 1¼ to 17 16 (32 to 37 mm)


Similar Species


Wetlands, riparian areas, forests, open areas




Late summer and fall




Adults are active at night and will come to lights, but they do not wander far from wetlands.

Caterpillars bore into the roots, underground stems (rhizomes), and aerial stems of host plants and are rarely seen.


Life Cycle


The eggs are laid in the fall and hatch in the spring. The larvae pupate in the summer and emerge as adults in late summer.


Larva Hosts


Various plants in the Apiaceae (carrot) family, including spotted water hemlock, purplestem angelica, and hemlock water-parsnip.


Adult Food




Distribution Map



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





This species is much less common than its host plants.



Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)  


Noctuoidea (owlet moths and allies)  


Noctuidae (cutworm moths and allies)  


Noctuinae (cutworms and dart moths)  


Apameini (arches)  



There have been three major revisions of the family Noctuidae since 2006, each placing the genus Papaipema in a different subfamily, Amphipyrinae, Hadeninae, and Noctuinae. All three subfamilies are used for this genus by various authors.

This species was classified as Hydroecia insulidens when it was first described in 1902. The name was changed in 1908 to Gortyna birdi and in 1920 to Papaipema pertincta. In 2015 Papaipema pertincta was given the status of synonym of Papaipema insulidens. Another synonym is Papaipema birdi.




Gortyna birdi

Papaipema birdi

Papaipema pertincta


Common Names


ragwort stem borer moth

umbellifer borer moth

  The common name refers to this species being found on tansy ragwort in the Northwest.  








Antemedial (AM) line

A thin line separating the basal area and the median area of the forewing of Lepidoptera.


Costal margin

The leading edge of the forewing of insects.


Orbicular spot

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


Postmedial (PM) line

A thin line separating the median area and the postmedial area of the forewing of Lepidoptera.


Reniform spot

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



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.






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Alfredo Colon

    ragwort stem borer moth      
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  Alfredo Colon
Summer 2018

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

ragwort stem borer moth  
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Created: 12/9/2019

Last Updated:

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