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Virginia Ctenucha Moth (Ctenucha virginica)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Virginia Ctenucha Moth

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Image Credit: Alexandra M. from Ithaca, NY
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A narrow white fringe on jet-black wings is matched for brightness by the Virginia Ctenucha's orange head.

Updated: 07/15/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Found on the eastern side of the continent, the Virginia Ctenucha looks similar to the west coast Red-shouldered Ctenucha. They are in the same genus but on different sides of the Rocky Mountains. This moth could almost be mistaken for a wasp thanks to its coloring. Inky black wings are long and have just a hint of bright white along parts of the fringe. The orange head is covered in hair and the color extends to the base of the wings, giving it orange ?shoulders?. The thorax is a shiny, metallic blue that is also on the body. Long black antennae have fine comb-like teeth. Legs are black.

Caterpillars feed on grasses, sedge, and irises. Two broods can be produced each year. The caterpillar may be black or white with black-tipped white or yellow bristles all over it. It looks like a multicolored pipe cleaner. The head is red with a back face. The colors on the larva can change as it matures. Look for the moth among flowers by day or night all through spring and summer.

General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Insect antennae icon
Flying insect icon
Shiny insect icon


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Erebidae
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          Genus: Ctenucha
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            Species: virginica
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Ctenucha virginica
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 25mm to 27mm (0.98" to 1.06")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; white; red; blue; orange
Descriptors: shiny blue neck; red collar; orange head; red head; black wings white edges; comb-like antennae; flying

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 25mm (1.0in) and 27mm (1.1in)
Lo: 25mm
Md: 26mm
Hi: 27mm
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 Virginia Ctenucha Moth 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 Virginia Ctenucha Moth. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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