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Ironweed Borer (Papaipema cerussata)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Ironweed Borer

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The larvae of the Ironweed Borer feed on and dig into the stems of ironweed, a native flowering shrub, making sightings of them just as rare as the adults.

Updated: 07/06/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Dark black and brown coloring on the wings of the adult Ironweed Borer accentuates clusters of white spots. Three or four white dots are grouped near the base of the wings. Three larger white dots are in the center of the forewings, angled toward the head. A third cluster of white forms a line angled toward the abdomen. The abdomen is a tawny brown color that is also seen at the outer corner of each forewing.

Like other moths in this genus, the caterpillars chew into plant parts. This species favors ironweed, a type of aster. Larvae eat into the stems and may be hard to find once inside. Adults can be found in open fields, meadows and marshes, especially in areas where ironweed is present. Despite a large range and versatile habitats, sightings of adult Ironweed Borers are not that common.

General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Garden pest insect icon
Patterned insect icon
Pest insect icon


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Noctuidae
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          Genus: Papaipema
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            Species: cerussata
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Papaipema cerussata
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 20mm to 22mm (0.78" to 0.86")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black, white, orange, brown
Descriptors: spots, trio, three, edge, flying, garden pest

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 20mm (0.8in) and 22mm (0.9in)
Lo: 20mm
Md: 21mm
Hi: 22mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Ironweed Borer may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Ironweed Borer. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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