I made the journey to Adams County last Saturday, and connected with John Howard and Tricia West, both of who live locally and are outstanding naturalists. Mary Ann Barnett ventured up from Kentucky, and Skip Trask joined us for the morning. Our mission? An incredible caterpillar. Lest you think me too foolish for chasing a caterpillar, rest assured that a field trip like this produces LOTS OF STUFF, from Blue Grosbeaks and Dickcissels to rare orchids to box turtles. But the caterpillar that follows was our primary quarry, and it is an intriguing tale.
I would describe the plant as rare to uncommon at best, and widely scattered. I think all of the populations that I have seen have been in prairies.
It turns out that a few other populations of the moth have turned up in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois, all in the last few years and all on populations of scurf pea. Now is the time to search for it, as the caterpillars are very distinctive and far more conspicuous than the moths that they will eventually morph into.
I'm sure that I would have found many more of the caterpillars, but a prairie thunderstorm blew in with a vengeance, and chased me back to the car. I'll hope to get back to this site for a more thorough inspection very soon.
Photo: John Howard
John Howard managed to find one of the adult moths back in June, and made this photo. It is a rather sharp looking insect, just as is its caterpillar stage.
I look forward to learning more about this interesting moth, and its eventual formal scientific description and naming. This Schinia flower moth is yet more proof that we don't know everything and that fascinating new discoveries lurk under our noses. To me, it further reinforces the value of protecting significant natural areas such as the prairies where this moth has been found. Who knows what else is out there that we don't know about?