Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

More orange

with 20 comments

Ctenucha Moth on Eupatorium serotinum Flowers 4340

Click for greater clarity.

As I wandered along the trail on August 19th at Hamilton Pool Preserve, not only did I see an orange butterfly, but also a bunch of orange-collared moths on some Eupatorium serotinum, a white-blossoming member of the same tribe, Eupatorieae, as the blue mistflower that was blooming nearby. From what I’ve found online, this kind of moth might be Cisseps fulvicollis; on the other hand, it looks like it could be Ctenucha virginica; but then again, it also resembles Acoloithus falsarius (except that in that species the orange collar is supposedly bisected by a strip of black). Entomologists, feel free to lend your expertise to, as Wikipedia likes to put it, disambiguate the situation.

For the technically minded: this moth kept moving around on the flowers, so I used a shutter speed of 1/500 sec. to stop the action. Because the insect was in almost constant motion, I didn’t have the luxury of taking time to align the camera’s focal plane with as much of the moth’s body as possible. Faced with that difficult situation, I kept my focus on the bright orange patch on the back of the moth’s head, knowing that other parts of its body wouldn’t be as sharp.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 15, 2013 at 6:13 AM

20 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Very sharp and pretty!


    September 15, 2013 at 6:23 AM

    • Thanks, Georgette. I was tempted to apply your comment to myself, but one part of it didn’t seem to fit.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2013 at 8:31 AM

  2. When I saw this one it reminded me of the Polka Dot Wasp; the Nerium oleander’s pollinator, only native to Florida and Puerto Rico. Beautiful colours. Because Oleanders are used as ornamentals widely, the Polka Dot Wasp is often destroyed

    M. Firpi

    September 15, 2013 at 7:06 AM

  3. Good catch. Insects are often very hard to photograph. I vote for the Cisseps. The more feathered antennae and the lack of a blue spot behind the head do it for me.

    It’s raining this morning!

    Jim in IA

    September 15, 2013 at 7:39 AM

    • Thanks. The continuing movements of these moths made for some difficult photographic moments, but I took enough pictures that I figured at least a few of them would come out acceptable.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2013 at 8:39 AM

  4. Great capture. When I first glanced at the photo, my first thought wasn’t “moth”. It looked more waspish to me, probably because I don’t remember seeing a moth with its wings positioned this way. But those antennae surely are a giveaway, and at your link there’s a photo of the creature with its wings spread and a much more moth-like appearance.

    The blue and brown combination is really appealing. I’m not sure I would have accessorized with orange, but I wasn’t in charge. 😉


    September 15, 2013 at 8:05 AM

    • You’re not alone. Marisa (in the second comment) saw a resemblance to what is called the polka dot wasp moth. I grew up with a pretty limited mental image of what a moth looks like, but from my recent years of doing nature photography and delving into references, I’ve learned that moths come in a great many configurations, most of which don’t easily fit my childhood concept of a moth. Similarly, maybe now you’ll expand your conception of how to accessorize.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2013 at 8:46 AM

  5. The feathered antennae are amazing! And I quite like the touch of orange with brown and blue combo – good contrast 😉


    September 15, 2013 at 8:18 AM

    • I can tell you that the bright orange patches dominated and drew my attention. Only later, in looking at the resulting pictures, did I appreciate the blue body and plumed antennae.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2013 at 8:49 AM

  6. Très belle macro Steve, je n’aurais pas deviné à première vue que c’était un papillon, il est superbe!


    September 15, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    • Like several other commenters, Chantal says that she wouldn’t have guessed this is a moth.

      Readers would do well to have a look at Chantal’s recent photograph of a “modest moth,” whose bold design seems to cry out against any claim of modesty.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2013 at 10:00 AM

  7. He’s a handsome beast, for sure!


    September 15, 2013 at 3:24 PM

  8. The Eupatorium is everywhere around here, including my backyard, and I frequently see both Cisseps fulvicollis and Ctenucha virginica foraging away on the flowers. I rarely find them with the wings spread and actually more often they are mating. 🙂 Nice image, Steve.

    Steve Gingold

    September 15, 2013 at 7:00 PM

    • How fortunate that you’re surrounded by Eupatoriums, especially now that they’re flowering. I’m impressed that you can tell the two moths apart. You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Steve.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2013 at 7:04 PM

      • Yes I am lucky and they are about the only prolific wild “weed” my wife allows me to keep in the yard. We have goldenrods and spiderworts but they all must be kept under control. The boneset is allowed to run free. Mine is actually one of the slightly earlier varieties and is now approaching repose. The flowers attract a multitude of insects, a few of which have appeared in my blog.
        I couldn’t tell the species apart until a kindly FB mother friend told me the difference. Just a bit more yellow for the Yellow-collared Scape compared to the Virginia Ctenucha. That is a lot easier than dissecting insect genitalia which is what I am often told by the helpful Bugguide.net folks.

        Steve Gingold

        September 15, 2013 at 7:23 PM

        • About six autumns ago, when I visited the Berkshires for the first time, I was pleased to see goldenrod in many places. Then a landscaper told me that his clients often consider it a weed and want it pulled out of their yards. Given my orientation, that’s getting things backwards; each to his own. The flowers of the Eupatoriums (boneset, thoroughwort) sure do attract a lot of insects, as you mentioned, but I think I’ll take a pass on the kind of dissection you say the Bugguide folks recommend.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 15, 2013 at 7:58 PM

  9. Incredible capture


    September 16, 2013 at 8:55 PM

    • I was pleased to be able to stop a little piece of the insects’ frenetic feeding on the wildflowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 16, 2013 at 10:17 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: