Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Carmenta mariona, a very pretty, rarely photographed Sesiid Moth

I was, and am too busy to write extensive blogs about all my excursions this spring. So here is just a very short note about our Madrean Discovery Expedition Sierra Elenita, Mexico,  April 30 to May 4 2016.
On a sunny, but rather cool morning in this pine-oak area not very many insects were flying. But Chris Roll still succeeded in netting a very nice one whose identity quickly changed from presumed beetle to Sesiid Moth. I kept it over night in my cooler and photographed it in the morning in my tent before it went to our moth expert John Palting to be carefully pinned.
But even John needed some time until he had the correct id, here is what he wrote to me today:

Carmenta mariona (Beutenmuller 1900)

Despite this little moth being so distinctive, I had a hard time figuring it out, in part because the existing photos of it are so poor. They completely lack the beautiful metallic blue of Chris' specimen. The moth is Carmenta mariona (Beutenmuller 1900). It is apparently a borage feeder and was reared from pupae sticking out of the base of Lithospermum incisum near Elgin in April,1983. All records are from early spring. It is rarely collected, probably in part due to this early flight period (not in sync with most sessiids). Margarethe, your photo will probably be the reference for this species for years to come! Beautiful! 
Best, John
 Chris Roll then asked:
John, are you sure this isn't that very rare species, Carmenta elenita???
 John answered:
I know it doesn't look very much like the photos of meriona, but the specimens shown are very worn. The orange fw hind margin is pretty distinctive. But not much is known about the sesiids in general, ) so perhaps it could be elenita...or rolli someday :)' 
 So I am glad that I made the extra effort to photograph it , because a life moth just looks different from the best pinned specimen. The only better thing would have been a photo in situ on a plant, but we were not going to risk that.

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