If you don't get down and look at the little things, you are missing the richness of life. --Robin Foster

Some Anza-Borrego
Moths and Larvae

East San Diego County, California

White-lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata)
Adult & Three Larvae

White-lined Sphinx caterpillars are quite variable in color. Three different larval forms are pictured below. In years of population explosions, they eat whole fields of vegetation to the ground.
White lined sphinxWhite-Lined Sphinx, Hyles lineata, sipping nectar from Kumquat. Granite Ridge, Boulder Co., CO. 29 May 2001
white lined sphinx, cat.White-Lined Sphinx larva, dark form, eating Dune Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides). Borrego Springs, CA. 23 February 2004
green H LineWhite-Lined Sphinx larva, green form, eating California Evening Primrose (Camissonia californica). Hoberg Canyon, ABDSP. 21 March 2003
white lined sphinx cat burrowingWhite-Lined Sphinx larva, yellowish, digging a burrow in loose sand for pupation. Henderson Canyon Rd., ABDSP. 3 May 2001

Spring Day-flying Moths seen 22 March 2004 on the
NABA Butterfly Count--Borrego Springs & Environs

The first eight of these day-fliers were seen on the butterfly count, but not photographed then. The ninth, the Spanish Needles Flower Moth, was seen the day before. Size is the length of the costal forewing. (To get wing spread, multiply by 2 and add a few mm for the thickness of the moth's body.) Ron Leuschner identified six of them for us (indicated by astericks) for ABDSP surveys. Host plant information is from Robinson, G.S. et al, 2002, Hostplants of the Moth and Butterfly Caterpillars of American North of Mexico.
ridings forester Riding's Forester, Alypia ridingsii, (Noctuidae) nectaring on Desert Lavender. Often in late Feb. we see one to two males perching in many of the Lavender shrubs, especially in Plum Canyon. They also nectar at Desert Apricot. These moths fly into bushes as a ball of black, then spread their wings and sit for only a few seconds. Length of costal FW: ~13 - 14mm. Hostplants are evening primroses.


alypiaridingscatRiding's Forester larva eating an Evening Primrose, probably Camissonia californica, in Borrego Palm Canyon, 20 March 2005. There were several cats on one plant. We also have photographed this caterpillar eating Camissonia pallida.
annaphilaastraloga Annaphila astraloga (Noctuidae) nectaring on Desert Lavender. We've also seen it sipping Desert Apricot and Desert Mistletoe. Sometimes the hindwing spots, the same size as mistletoe berries, are also as coral as the berries. Length of costal FW: ~ 10mm. Hostplant is Whispering Bells (Emmenanthe penduliflora in the Hydrophyllaceae family).
syn... Drasteria tejonica (Noctuidae) nectaring on Desert Lavender. It also sips other flowers such as Sugarbush and Thornbush. Length of costal FW: ~16.5 to 20mm. No hostplant is listed. Males have paler whitish to pinkish underwings, while females are more orange. A male here?
litocalasexsignata Litocala sexsignata (Noctuidae) sipping Desert Apricot. We've also seen it sipping mud at Culp Valley and perching on Desert Scrub Oak (Quercus cornelius-mulleri). Oaks are listed as the hostplant. Length of costal forewing: ~ 15 to 16mm. Could the species name 'sexsignata' refer to the six spots, three on each dorsal hindwing? Note also the white under HW fringe. We saw it hilltipping with the Mournful Duskywing that also has a white frinbge -- and it even flies like a skipper. It also hilltops on Pinyon Ridge.
Phaeton Sphinx *Phaeton Sphinx, Euproserpinus phaeton mojave (Sphingidae) perching on a sandy trail. Often it will hop from one tiny plant to another, sometimes even whirring its wings like a hummingbird. A neat very small sphinx moth!! Length of costal FW: ~16 mm. Hostplants are evening primroses. On March 5, 2002 we found its larva eating Dune Primrose and it pupated the next day. A very early moth on the desert, as it only has one flight a year. It also eats Camissonia pallida at higher elevations a little later in the season.
hyleslineataWhite-lined Sphinx, Hyles lineata (Sphingidae). By far our most common moth--in the larval stage! Especially, during years of mass eruptions, such as 2004! Its favorite hostplants are the evening primroses, especially Dune, Brown-eyed and California, but it also avidly eats Sand Verbena and, when all those plants have been eaten to stubs, almost everything else that is growing. The caterpillar burrows into the sand to pupate. Length of costal wing: ~35 mm.
Narraga fimetaria*Narraga fimetaria (Geometridae) holds its wings butterfly-style. Its costal FW length is ~10 mm and it looks a little like the underside of a small white marble or orangetip -- until you see the feathered antennae! Snakeweed, Gutierrezia sarothrae, in the Aster family is listed as one of its hostplants.
Chrismania pictipennalis*Chrismania pictipennalis (Crambidae) perching on sand. With a costal FW length of ~ 8 mm, it is actually a little larger than the Western Pygmy Blue. It skips along a sandy trail, often stopping at a filaree or other small plant. Underwings are apricot. Hostplant not listed.
Spanish Needles FlowerSpanish Needles Flower Moth, Schinia niveicosta (Noctuidae), resting on Spanish Needles, its hostplant. Note the orientation of moth and flower. This moth is beautifully marked with pink. Some individuals are more tannish or more lightly marked. Length of costal FW: ~12-13 mm.
alfalfa looper The Alfalfa Looper Autographa californica (Noctuidae) was almost as common as the Painted Lady in March, 2005. As we would walk through the desert, eight to twelve or more moths would fly out of almost every shrub. This particular Alfalfa Looper, raised from the caterpillar shown at right, pupated on 2 March and emerged on 14 March 2005.
alfalfa looper cat Alfalfa Looper larva eating Desert Sunflower, Geraea canescens, Henderson Canyon Rd., ABDSP, 28 Feb 2005. This caterpillar has many host plants.
Schinia sueta californicaSchinia sueta californica (Noctuidae) Montezuma Vista Point, ABDSP, CA 21 March 2005. Found by Paul Johnson on 2005 NABA Count. Host plant given as Lupines.