Journal archives for September 2017

September 21, 2017

ID Guide 3: Artificial Key to Cisthene lichen moths (Noctuidae, Arctiinae, Lithosiini) of Texas - Introduction

Over the past few weeks, I have made a long-overdue attempt to learn the small and confusing gray-and-orange lichen moths in the genus Cisthene. Twenty species are known from North America, and at least 12 species have been reported in Texas. The latter seemed like a good group to start out with; there are several additional species to be dealt with in FL, AZ, and the Pacific Coast, but that's for another day. I have found that even though many of the Cisthene species are quite variable, standard descriptions of the common patterns of each species can be constructed which will serve to identify the vast majority of moths (contra Knowlton, 1967), at least among the Texas fauna. Range is also important, and broad habitat and biogeographical considerations should not be ignored. This journal entry provides an introduction to the "Artificial Key" that I have created for the 12 Texas species. An artificial key is a dichotomous key which helps separate species without regard to their actual phylogenetic relationships.

I reviewed readily available (online) literature, including original descriptions, and studied online images from Barcode of Life Database (BOLD), Moth Photographer's Group (MPG), BugGuide (BG), iNaturalist, and other sources, along with my own collection of photos. None of these sources has been error-free. I relied primarily on barcoded specimens and those vetted by genitalic examination and recognized experts to assess color patterns.

The twelve species of Cisthene which have been reported in Texas are (with Hodges numbers and original authors):

#8059 Cisthene subrufa (Barnes & McDunnough, 1913)
#8060 Cisthene unifascia Grote & Robinson, 1868
#8061 Cisthene kentuckiensis (Dyar, 1904)
#8066 Cisthene tenuifascia Harvey, 1875
#8067 Cisthene plumbea Stretch, 1885
#8070 Cisthene angelus (Dyar, 1904)
#8071 Cisthene subjecta Walker, 1854
#8072 Cisthene packardii (Grote, 1863)
#8073 Cisthene conjuncta (Barnes & McDunnough, 1913)
#8074 Cisthene barnesii (Dyar, 1904)
#8075 Cisthene picta (Barnes & McDunnough, 1918)
#8078 Cisthene martini C.B. Knowlton, 1967

Important Features of Adult Cisthene Moths for Identification Purposes

Critical to identification of photographic records are a combination of both lateral and dorsal images and an image with a mm rule wherever possible. An understanding of the structure of the adult moth is also crucial to descriptions of Cisthene as is a general agreement on the names of colors. Below, I highlight those portions of the moths that I emphasize in the key in a subsequent journal entry. First I'm embedding a set of photos of various Cisthene species to illustrate most of the common features I use in the identification key:

Fig1 Cisthene geography_4964.JPG
Figure 1. Cisthene tenuifascia: Useful Characters for Identification of Cisthene moths.

Fig2 Cisthene geography LA7717305-Tyler
Figure 2. An example of Cisthene packardii, showing additional features used in the identification key.
(Photo credit: @royaltyler, from iNaturalist)

Fig3 Cisthene geography_3200
Figure 3. An example of Cisthene plumbea, showing additional features used in the identification key.

Fig4 Cisthene geography_0294
Figure 4. Cisthene nr. subrufa, showing additional features used in the idenfication key.

Head. The head only occasionally provides useful information in a macroscopic examination of a Cisthene specimen or photograph. Particular attention should be paid to the vertex, i.e., the top of the head between the eyes and in front of the collar (see next).

Thorax. The collar is a narrow rectangular band of scales covering the front of the thorax (e.g. the "neck"); it is often colored similar to the bands on the forewings. Most Cisthene show a dark oval central disk on top of the thorax between the base of the wings. A few species are distinctive in having this disk entirely orange. Flanking the disk are the tegulae (singular: tegula) which are usually colored with the same yellow or orange color as seen on the forewings.

Forewings. Many useful characters which help distinguish adult Cisthene moths are viewed on the forewings (FWs), particularly in a side view of a live specimen. On such a specimen, the inner (or rear) margin of the FWs is on top where the wings meet. The costal margin is the "forward" edge of the wings, i.e., the lower edge on a perched moth. The dark ground color varies from black or dark gray to dark gray-brown and provides useful information in just a few species. More important are the colored stripes, bands, and spots on the FWs. These include:

-- Basal streak. Almost all Cisthene have some kind of colored band along the inner margin of the FWs (the top edge on a living specimen with folded wings). It's width and color are useful in many cases, as is its connection (or lack thereof) to the postmedian color band, or its separation from the inner FW margin by gray.
-- Postmedian band (PM band). This band of color crosses the wing just beyond the middle, extending in most instances from the inner margin down to the costal margin (lower edge on the folded wing). It is quite variable in shape in many species: It may be wide or narrow and is typically flared out at both the top and bottom ends. It's orientation, perpendicular to the inner margin or paralleling the outer FW margin, is sometimes important. In some species this band is very narrow and broken into just two or three thin spots. In a few species it consists of only two colored PM spots (semicircles or triangles) on the inner and costal margins or just a single spot on the inner margin. While variable, this band, in combination with the basal streak, provides crucial information in most species.
-- Costal margin. Away from the costal PM band or spot, most species show only the dark ground color along the costal margin. However, a few species characteristically show an extensive but narrow yellow margin along the costa which can be useful for identification.

Hindwings. Most Cisthene have a red, pink, or yellow hindwing with a variable amount of dusky gray color near the apex (outer corner) or outer margin. However, since this is rarely visible in photos of living specimens, I don't emphasize it in the present key. There are important differences among species (and even subgenera) in the shape and scaling on the anal angle (inner corner near the abdomen) on males; for these differences, the reader should consult Knowlton's 1967 review of the genus.

Legs. The legs of almost all Cisthene are blackish with varying and variable amounts of color (orange or yellow) on the base of the middle femur and sometimes other segments. These are so variable as to be of almost no use in field identification. As a general rule, however, the more yellow or orange color on the FWs, the more color there is on the legs.

I try to use common color names familiar to a contemporary reader. The ground color on all species will be some shade of slate gray, but ranging from brownish gray to nearly black; this is important for identification in a few species. The remaining "color" areas of the body and wings are various shades of orange, ranging from yellow to red-orange, but with a few important exceptions.

Subsequent parts of this multiple-entry journal article will include (a) the identification key and (b) a set of more complete species descriptions. I am also preparing a series of maps which will bring together (verifiable) records from several sources including original literature, BOLD, MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, and other sources.

NOTE: This should be considered a DRAFT publication. I retain all rights to its content and subsequent publication. Please contact me (iNat message) for further details about development of the full article (in prep.).

References: (A more complete list of references and literature is in preparation.)
Holland, W. J. 1903 (1968 Dover reprint). The Moth Book. Dover Publ., New York. [Key to seven spp. of "Illice" (= Cisthene) on p. 109.]

Knowlton, Carroll B. A Revision of the Species of Cisthene Known to Occur North of the Mexican Border (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae: Lithosiinae). Trans. of the Amer. Entom. Soc., Vol. 93, No. 1 (Mar., 1967), pp. 41-100. Link to pdf copy available on BugGuide:

Knudson, Ed, and Charles Bordelon. Checklist of the Lepidoptera of Texas, 2010 ed. Texas Lep. Soc. Publ. No. 6.

Lafontaine, J. Donald, and B. Christian Schmidt. Annotated check list of the Noctuioidea (Insecta, Lepidoptera) of North America north of Mexico. ZooKeys 40:1-239 (2010). Link to pdf copy on BugGuide:

Powell, Jerry A., and Paul A. Opler. Moths of Western North America. Univ. of Calif. Press, Berkeley (2009), 369 pp.

Posted on September 21, 2017 05:32 AM by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 5 comments | Leave a comment

Artificial Key to Cisthene Moths of Texas - The Key

In the previous journal article, I introduced the topic of constructing an artificial key to the 12 species of the lichen moth genus Cisthene which have been reported in Texas. The present article offers the identification key, along with selected illustrations and links to each of the twelve species. A third installment of this journal entry will have more detailed species descriptions along with updated range information. Here are the twelve species of Cisthene which have been reported in Texas, along with links to representative examples:

#8059 Cisthene subrufa (Barnes & McDunnough, 1913)
#8060 Cisthene unifascia Grote & Robinson, 1868
#8061 Cisthene kentuckiensis (Dyar, 1904
#8066 Cisthene tenuifascia Harvey, 1875
#8067 Cisthene plumbea Stretch, 1885
#8070 Cisthene angelus (Dyar, 1904)
#8071 Cisthene subjecta Walker, 1854
#8072 Cisthene packardii (Grote, 1863)
#8073 Cisthene conjuncta (Barnes & McDunnough, 1913)
#8074 Cisthene barnesii (Dyar, 1904)
#8075 Cisthene picta (Barnes & McDunnough, 1918)
#8078 Cisthene martini C.B. Knowlton, 1967

Fig1 Cisthene geography_4964.JPG
Figure 1. Thin-banded Lichen Moth, Cisthene tenuifascia, showing key elements used in the identification key.


1a. Color areas on FW mainly whitish; PM band consists of only a rectangular spot on costa and a rounded spot on inner margin; white basal streak partly separated from marginal PM spot by a gray patch or by more gray along inner margin; rare, mainly LRGV. #8073 C. conjuncta (Fig. 1-1)
I propose the common name "White-streaked Lichen Moth" for this species.
Fig 1-1 Cisthene conjucta TX-TxLepSurv-BG copy
1b. Color areas mainly orange, ranging from yellow to red-orange. (2)

2a. Basal streak separated from inner margin of FW by gray (Fig. 2-1); narrow edge of yellow present along much of costal margin; East Texas. (3)
This does NOT refer to the gray central disk on the thorax in many species.)
Figure 2-1 Cisthene packardii

2b. Basal streak contiguous with inner margin of FW (Fig. 2-2). (4)
Figure 2-2 Cisthene tenuifascia

3a. Basal streak meets marginal PM spot at apex of spot; basal streak mainly reddish, contrasting little with thorax, collar, and marginal PM spot; costal PM spot low, flattened, usually 2X to 3X wide as tall; uncommon in n.e. Texas. #8071 C. subjecta (Fig. 3-1)
Subject Lichen Moth
Fig 3-1 Cisthene subjecta FL1206008-Goss-BG

3b. Basal streak meets marginal PM spot below apex of spot; basal streak usually yellowish, contrasting with reddish on thorax, collar, and PM spots; costal PM spot mixed red and yellow, semicircular, with steep forward edge; e. 1/3 of Texas, west to Bastrop Co. #8072 C. packardii (Fig. 3-2)
Packard's Lichen Moth
Fig 3-2 Cisthene packardii LA7717305-Tyler

4a. Thorax, including central disk, entirely yellow or orange (Fig. 4-1) or with just a small streak of gray in rear center; basal orange streak broadly connected to PM band. (5)
Fig 4-1 Cisthene picta TX911893-Hendrickson-BG

4b. Thorax with gray central disk (Fig. 4-2). (6)
Fig 4-2 Cisthene unifascia_5184

5a. Axis of PM band perpendicular to inner margin; distal edge of orange PM band clearly concave; basal streak with straight lower (forward) margin; Edwards Plateau, High Plains, eastward; uncommon. #8075 C. picta (Fig. 5-1)
Pictured Lichen Moth
Fig 5-1 Cisthene picta TX911893-Hendrickson-BG

5b. Axis of PM band oblique, nearly parallel with outer FW margin; distal margin of PM band relatively straight (but flaring at costa); in Texas primarily in the Trans-Pecos, east to the Devil's River. #8070 C. angelus (Fig. 5-2)
Angel Lichen Moth
Fig 5-2 Cisthene angelus TX8915595-LeeHoy

6a. PM spot usually absent on costa, but extensive yellow-orange streak extends along costa (1/2 to full length, variable); PM spot on inner margin typically large, rounded or triangular; ground color medium gray; common in wooded East Texas, west rarely to Travis and Uvalde Cos. #8067 C. plumbea* (Fig. 6-1)
Lead-colored Lichen Moth
Fig. 6-1 Cisthene plumbea_3200
(* Highly variable amounts of yellow-orange; sometimes very extensive; see Fig. 6-2.)
Fig 6-2 Cisthene plumbea TN7620729-Kueda

6b. PM band complete or at least costal PM spot obvious. (7)

7a. Top of head (vertex) gray (but collar and tegulae usually orange)*; basal streak narrow; PM orange band typically very narrow or broken into 2 or 3 spots or virtually absent, often slightly convex on distal edge; primarily West Texas and Edwards Plateau, east to Austin. #8074 C. barnesii (Figs. 7-1, 7-2)
Barnes' Lichen Moth
(* Some C. plumbea may have gray head; see couplet 6.)
Fig 7-1 Cisthene barnesii TX5852279-Lasley Fig 7-2 Cisthene barnesii AZ1838416-Hannawacker

7b. Top of head orange or yellow (along with collar and tegulae) (Figs. 1, 4-2, etc.). (8)

8a. Primarily LRGV, uncommon: color areas pale yellow; basal streak stopping well short of PM band, the pair of short basal streaks along with the pale tegulae thus creating an elliptical patch around the dark thoracic disk; PM band variable but usually flares much wider at inner margin then at costa, or PM band broken with large triangle on inner margin, small one on costa; ground color brownish gray, often darker next to PM band or triangles; size small (FW 6 to 7 mm; wingspan 13 to 16 mm). #8059 C. subrufa (Fig. 8-1)
I propose the common name Tamaulipan Lichen Moth for this species based on its general distribution.
Fig 8-1 Cisthene subrufa Kons-Borth-BOLD

8b. Not as above; color areas typically orange to red-orange (occasionally yellow); basal streak usually reaching PM band or close to it, sometimes broadly connected; PM band usually complete, wide to thin, sometimes broken; ground color typically slate gray to blackish. (9)

9a. Ground color black; basal streak wide and widely connected to wide PM band; PM band with rounded, concave forward margin; extreme n.e. Texas only. (Color areas may be orange or yellow; ground color of worn specimens will be grayer.) #8061 C. kentuckiensis (Figs. 9-1, 9-2)
Kentucky Lichen Moth
Fig 9-1 Cisthene kentuckiensis MD1131852-Jonn-BG Fig 9-2 Cisthene kentuckiensis TX7140617-Annikaml

9b. Ground color dark gray to slate gray; basal streak variable but not broadly connected to PM band if at all; PM not shaped as above. (10)

10a. PM band typically consisting of two broad-based triangles which barely connect in middle; forward edge of PM band thus deeply indented, angular, irregular (not smoothly concave); color areas usually pale orange but may be yellow or red-orange; s.e. 1/2 of Texas. #8060 C. unifascia (Fig. 10-1)
One-banded Lichen Moth ("Banded Footman" in early literature)
Fig 10-1 Cisthene unifascia TX5451612-Lasley

10b. Not as above: PM band complete and of more uniform width and/or forward edge smoothly concave. (11)

11a. Color areas usually dark red-orange, often with very narrow yellow edge; ground color dark gray to blackish; rare, local in mts. of Trans-Pecos (poss. specimens). #8078 C. martini (Fig. 11-1)
Martin's Lichen Moth
Fig. 11-1 Cisthene martini AZ321518-Melton-BG

11b. Color areas typically orange; ground color slate gray; orange basal streak and PM band variable but usually relatively narrow, parallel sided or slightly concave on both edges, sometimes broken; common and widespread across much of Texas. #8066 C. tenuifascia (Figs. 11-2, 11-3, 11-4)
Thin-banded Lichen Moth
Fig 11-2 Cisthene tenuifascia_4964.JPG Fig. 11-3 Cisthene tenuifascia_7073 Fig 11-4 Cisthene tenuifascia TX5451615-Lasley
(Make sure to note the orange vertex, as noted on each of these examples.)

Supplemental Notes
As can be discerned from the structure of this key, the Thin-banded Lichen Moth is best identified by process of elimination. Yet it appears to be the most widespread species in Texas and, frustratingly, one of the most variable. To rephrase much of the information in the above key in a negative way, a Cisthene moth might be identified as Thin-banded IF it LACKS all of the following characters:

-- Gray separating the basal streak from inner margin ( = Subject or Packard's Lichen Moths)
-- Gray vertex ( = Barnes' Lichen Moth)
-- Orange thoracic disk ( = Pictured and Angel Lichen Moth)
-- PM band of two (or just one) broad spots or triangles ( = One-banded or Lead-colored Lichen Moth)

Indecision/confusion will occur if it can be demonstrated (e.g. by barcoding or genitalic examination) that some of the above characters can be documented in individuals of Thin-banded, but those occurrences are apparently very few in number, if they exist at all. A detailed discussion of the identification of Thin-banded Lichen Moth will be found in my next journal entry (Sept. 27, 2017). The most likely confusion among Texas members of this genus will be with the following:

-- Barnes's Lichen Moth can have (usually has?) an orange collar contrasting with the gray vertex. Failure to note the gray vertex and/or confusion of the collar and vertex color patches has led to many apparent misidentifications. Confusion arrises with Thin-banded because both species not infrequently have a very thin or broken PM band, but that condition is more frequent, perhaps the norm, in Barnes'. Observers should rely more on vertex color than PM band strength for identification. By range, Barnes' seems to be a moth of pinyon-juniper foothills and is unexpected (in Texas) outside of the Trans-Pecos and the southern and eastern Edwards Plateau.
-- Kentucky Lichen Moth has thus far only been documented in extreme n.e. Texas (Caddo Lake area). The black ground color (on fresh specimens), wide orange basal streak, and wide PM band normally distinguish this easily from Thin-banded, but faded individual Kentucky Lichen Moth which have somewhat narrower orange streaks and band may be confusable with Thin-banded having wider than normal color areas. Any confusion with One-banded is usually easily resolved with reference to the shape of the forward edge of the PM band. Confusion with Pictured Lichen Moth is resolved by thoracic disk color and the broader connection of the basal streak to the PM band in that species.
-- The enigmatic Tamaulipan Lichen Moth of the Lower Rio Grande Valley is known from few specimens and many images are suspect, thus I relied almost exclusively on BOLD specimens (see link above). Along with the short basal streak and brownish ground color, size is critically important. Based on published measurements, most/all Tamaulipan should be recognizably smaller than most Thin-banded. Keep your millimeter rule handy when in the LRGV (and everywhere else)!!

I emphasize again that the above key should be useful for identifying the majority of specimens and images, but uncommon or aberrant forms will not key out successfully, and the full range of variation in each species is still not easily examined solely from online images.

NOTE: This should be considered a DRAFT publication. I retain all rights to its content and subsequent publication. Please contact me (iNat message) for further details about development of the full article (in prep.).

Photo credits: (All photos by @gcwarbler unless noted otherwise.)
Fig. 1-1 Texas Lepidoptera Survey, BugGuide, used by permission.
Figs. 2-1, 3-2 @royaltyler,, used by permission.
Fig. 3-1 Gary J. Goss, BugGuide, used by permission.
Figs. 4-1, 5-1 Ann Hendrickson, BugGuide, used by permission.
Fig. 5-2 @leehoy,, used by permission.
Fig. 6-2 @kueda,, used by permission.
Fig. 7-1, 10-1, 11-4 @greglasley,, used by permission.
Fig. 7-2 @hannawacker,, used by permission.
Fig. 8-1 Spec. by Kons & Borth; BOLD public data, #HKONB166-08
Fig. 9-1 Jonn, BugGuide, used by permission.
Fig. 9-2 @annikaml,, used by permission.
Fig. 11-1 Copyright Charles W. Melton, BugGuide, used by permission.

Posted on September 21, 2017 01:41 PM by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 21 comments | Leave a comment

September 27, 2017

ID Guide 3 (cont'd): Thin-banded Lichen Moth and Similar Species in Texas

Many of the Cisthene lichen moths are similar in general pattern but quite variable within each species. This led Knowlton (1967) in his "Revision" of the genus to provide limited information on discrimination by pattern and to rely heavily on genitalic differences for species separation. While that might be justifiable from a technical standpoint, it left the identification of specimens and photos by non-specialists at a great disadvantage for 50 years. Along with Knowlton's brief notes, much useful information on identification by color patterns has been previously published but it is widely scattered in the literature (e.g., Neumoegen & Dyar 1893; Holland 1903; Dyar 1904; Covell 1984; Powell & Opler 2009; Beadle & Leckie 2012). That said, I have studied sets of verified images and specimens (e.g., Barcoding of Life Data System, BOLD) to elucidate additional helpful hints to separate several species. I searched Moth Photographers Group (MPG), BugGuide (BG), Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA), and other online sites for images and distributional data. I reviewed all iNaturalist observations (as of 9/26/2017) of Cisthene moths in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains. None of these sources is error-free, thus I relied heavily on barcoded specimens (BOLD) and those vetted by genitalic examination (e.g., Knowlton 1967) and recognized experts to assess color patterns.

In the previous two journal entries, I provided an artificial key to the 12 Texas species of the genus Cisthene. In this third part of this series, I offer the first of a set of descriptions of species, emphasizing those aspects which are most useful for identifying each in the field or from photographs and descriminating them from similar species. I review the range of each species as presently known and offer any habitat notes that I can recognize. The reader is refered to that previous key for more images of the species covered here.

For convenience, I am starting with Thin-banded Lichen Moth, the most widespread species in Texas, most numerous in Central Texas, and the one with which several other species are likely to be confused. In this journal entry, I include notes on these species: Thin-banded (including the Arizona population known as C. tenuifascia schwarziorum or "Schwarz's Lichen Moth"), One-banded, Barnes', Martin's, and Tamaulipan Lichen Moths. Common names are from Covell (1984), Beadle & Leckie (2012), and BAMONA (2017); I offered a few suggestions for common names in the previous key to facilitate communication among non-specialists.

Acknowlegments: I am grateful to @alexwild (Univ. of Texas Insect Collection), @hughmcguinness (who checked specimens at U.S. National Museum), Ed Knudson (Texas Lepidoptera Survey), Steven Nanz and Bob Patterson (Moth Photographer's Group), Valerie Bugh (Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center), @beschwar, @dianaterryhibbitts, @jaykeller, @leehoy, @ptexis, @rjnjr, @royaltyler, Ann Hendrickson, and Arlo Pelegrin for useful discussions, and to the several photographers cited below and in previous parts of this ID Guide 3, and all of the iNaturalists who have uploaded observations of Cisthene moths.

Thin-banded Lichen Moth (Cisthene tenuifascia)
MPG: (but see note below)
Cisthene tenuifascia TX5451615-Lasley 100x2 Cisthene tenuifascia TX3028159-Lasley 100x2
Figures 1 & 2. Variation in the Thin-banded Lichen Moth in Texas. Ph. @greglasley, used by permission.

Range. Thin-banded Lichen Moth ranges from Arizona ("Schwarz's" Lichen Moth) east through most of Texas and Oklahoma. It is also found in northeast Mexico (Coahuila, Nuevo Leon). There are scattered reports from Utah, South Dakota, and perhaps elsewhere north of this general range. Older literature indicates that Thin-banded ranges across the southeastern U.S. to Florida, as far north as southern Kansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina, and up the Atlantic Coast (rarely) to New Jersey (Knowlton 1967, Muller 1976, and MPG) but no records of the species are turning up on iNaturalist or BugGuide in the eastern U.S. in the modern digital era, suggesting that those earlier pronouncements of the range were based on misidentification of other species of Cisthene.

The species ranges over most of Texas with its center of abundance in the central third of the state where it is by far the most numerous species. It has been documented as far west as the Davis Mountains, reported in older records on the BAMONA website from the Panhandle, and overlaps with other species in East and South Texas. In the latter areas, it overlaps broadly with One-banded and Lead-colored Lichen Moths, the last one being probably more numerous in heavily forested parts of East Texas.

Identification. Thin-banded Lichen Moth can be recognized by the combination of an orange vertex, dark thoracic disk, relatively narrow basal orange streak which nearly or actually reaches the PM band, and a narrow, sometimes irregular and sometimes broken orange PM band.

Because of it's variability and similarity to several other species, there has been extensive confusion on how to identify Thin-banded Lichen Moth. Knowlton's (1967) bias against using patterns to identify most Cisthene lichen moths left a major knowledge gap for the past fifty years. This has been compounded by other factors including: (a) overlooking previously described field marks, and (b) biased selection or erroneous identification of images on authoritative sites like MPG and BAMONA. Sources of confusion include the following:

Cisthene tenuifascia AZ8053951-sambiology 100x2
Figure 3. Apparent "Schwartz's Lichen Moth", Cisthene tenuifascia ssp. schwarziorum, Chiricahua Mts., AZ.
Ph. @sambiology, used by permssion.
-- One problem in recent years has been the images available for comparison online. At the present writing (September 2017) it appears that all of the images on the MPG page for Thin-banded Lichen Moth are examples from Arizona and New Mexico and all are of the subspecies schwarziorum ("Schwarz's" Lichen Moth) described by Dyar in 1899, with a very confusing subsequent taxonomic history. Schwartiorum differs from nominate Thin-banded in Texas by having a proportionately wider, complete PM band, yellower colors, and blackish gray ground color. Texas Thin-banded are more variable in these aspects but typically have a narrower PM band; in about a third of specimens, the PM band is broken. Color areas are usually true orange, although yellow examples occur, and the ground color is typically a slate gray on fresh specimens. See the key in the previous journal entry for more illustrations of typical Thin-banded in Texas.

Cisthene unifascia_5184
Figure 4. One-banded Lichen Moth, Burnet Co., TX. Ph. @gcwarbler.

-- One-banded Lichen Moth (C. unifascia). Older literature (pre-1916) did not distinguish what we now call Thin-banded and other species from unifascia, thus old references to the latter included several different lichen moths. To this day, the similarity of the two names (scientific and common) can still cause confusion among non-specialists. In almost all instances, One-banded is easily separated from Thin-banded by the shape of the PM band made up of two broad-based triangles which meet narrowly--or not at all--in middle. The forward edge of the PM band is irregular and deeply indented, the notch appearing nearly rectangular. One-banded Lichen Moth is confined to the s.e. one-half of Texas; it co-occurs widely with Thin-banded in Central Texas and with Lead-colored and Packard's Lichen Moth in East Texas.

Cisthene barnesii TX5852279-Lasley 100x2
Figure 5. Barnes' Lichen Moth, Hays Co., TX. Ph. @greglasley, used by permission.
-- Barnes' Lichen Moth (C. barnesii) is normally recognized by the gray vertex (top of head). It can otherwise be very similar to Thin-banded. Original descriptions of barnesii emphasize the paleness of the gray color on the head and thorax (Dyar 1904, Knowlton 1967), thus presumably lighter than Thin-banded. The "legacy" version of BOLD (version 3) illustrates a single barcoded example of Thin-banded which seems to show gray on the vertex, the only one of 21 images on that page. None of the 25 public data images on BOLD of Thin-banded show a gray vertex, so this condition is assumed to be rare in Thin-banded. If a photo of a purported Thin-banded shows gray on top of the head, the color of the middle legs may be useful: Thin-banded should show at least some yellow-orange on the middle femur, often half or more but at least a smudge at the base of the mid-femur (see Fig. 2, above). The legs of all barnesii are reportedly gray and should show no more than a trace of yellow at the base of the mid-femur, if any (Fig. 5). There is, however, an apparent correlation within all Cisthene of the extent of orange/yellow color in the wings and the amount also on the legs. Range again may help; Barnes' Lichen Moth is generally associated with foothill areas and pinyon-juniper or juniper-oak woodlands; it is unexpected outside of the Trans-Pecos or southern and eastern Edwards Plateau.

Cisthene angelus AZ1084691-Keller 100x2 Cisthene picta OK321853-Dreiling-BG-BOLD 100x2
Figure 6 (left). Angel Lichen Moth, Mt. Lemmon, AZ. Ph. @jaykeller, used by permission.
Figure 7 (right). Pictured Lichen Moth, Washington Co., OK. Mark Dreiling, BOLD public data.

-- There seem to be no confirmed specimens or images of Thin-banded which have a solid orange thorax. Such examples are likely to be either Angel (C. angelus) or Pictured Lichen Moth (C. picta) (Figs. 6 & 7). However, this mark has been overlooked in some online images, placing them erroneously as Thin-banded. The solid orange thorax of those other two species may occasionally show a thin gray line in the rear center of the thorax (Fig. 7). Both Angel and Pictured Lichen Moths typically have a wide basal streak which is usually broadly connected to the PM band. Range is also useful since neither of those two species is expected to occur in deep East or South Texas and angelus is apparently confined mostly to the Trans-Pecos within Texas, ranging east only to the Devil's River.

Cisthene martini AZ321518-Melton-BG 100x2
Figure 8. Martin's Lichen Moth, Cochise Co., AZ. Ph. copyright Charles W. Melton, BugGuide, used by permission.
-- Martin's Lichen Moth (C. martini) is a species primarily of the forested mountains of southern Arizona and adjacent New Mexico and basically looks like a Thin-banded on which the colors are all darkened and oversaturated. At the moment it should be considered hypothetical in Texas. MPG shows a single occurrence of Martin's Lichen Moth in Jeff Davis Co., but the source of that record is unknown to me. Bob Neuelle Jr. collected series of Cisthene moths in August 2015 and July 2016 high in the Davis Mountains which look similar to Thin-banded Lichen Moth but have much darker ground color and much richer red-orange color areas on the FWs (see specimen images on iNat by @rjnjr). Some of these look like good candidates for Martin's Lichen Moth. This identification is speculation on my part and has not yet been confirmed by barcoding or genitalic examination. A Cisthene photo from the Davis Mountains in July 2015 by @aredoubles looks like a standard Thin-banded, similar to populations to the east.

Cisthene subrufa MX4094721-Gonzalezii 100x2 Cisthene subrufa MX2342966-Gonzalezii 100x2
Figures 9 & 10. Tamulipan Lichen Moth, (both) Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Ph. @gonzalezii, used by permission.

-- In South Texas, the poorly known Tamaulipan Lichen Moth (Cisthene subrufa) occurs. The species has been documented several times in northeastern Mexico around Monterrey and at least as far south as eastern San Luis Potosi (iNaturalist observations; Figs. 9 & 10). Color areas on this species are pale creamy yellow rather than orange. A key mark is the basal streak which stops well short of the PM band area. The basal streaks are convex and thus in top view they appear to form a symmetric elliptical pale area flanking the dark thoracic disk, looking like an avocado split in half. Ground color is brownish gray, thus paler than fresh Thin-banded, but faded examples of the latter will appear browner. Size is important: Tamaulipan Lichen Moth is small, with a reported wingspan of 13 to 16 mm (thus FWs about 5.5 to 7 mm) while the smallest individuals of Thin-banded span 16 mm and larger; I have four measured images of Thin-banded with FWs ranging from 8 to 10.5 mm.

Even as I upload the last two images of (assumed) Tamaulipan Lichen Moth for this article, I am challenged to figure out how to separate that species (particularly the example in Fig. 9 on the left) from "Schwarz's Lichen Moth" of southern Arizona (Fig. 3). Over 100 years ago, Dyar (1899) apparently named "Ozodania" (= Cisthene) schwarziorum from two widely separated specimens (AZ and Veracruz); Knowlton (1967) tried to retrace the later use of that name and settle the designation of the type specimens but perhaps even his careful examination was insufficient to properly portray this complexity. I may be in error on my identification of the moth in Figure 9...or Figure 3...or both...or neither. Such is the continuing challenge of learning about this intriguing genus*!

  • UPDATE (10/15/2017): "It's the leg color, Stupid!" Further examination of lots of images suggests that Schwarz's and Tamaulipan Lichen Moths can be distinguished by leg color (see the images above): Schwarz's, being a subspecies of Thin-banded, has mostly gray legs including in particular the middle tibia which are most often easily visible in photographs. By contrast, Tamaulipan Lichen Moth consistently has banded middle legs, especially the tibia which is often yellow in the middle third with gray on either end, and the hind legs are usually all yellow. See my next journal entry:


Barcoding of Life Data System (BOLD) website: Version 4.0 (last accessed 28 September 2017).

Beadle, David, and Seabrooke Leckie. 2012. Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America. Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, Boston.

Covell, Charles V., Jr. 1984. A Field Guide to the Moths of Eastern North America. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

Dyar, Harrison G. 1899. A new Lithosian. Psyche 8(277):359-360. [Describes Ozodania schwartiorum from Arizona and Mexico, but see Knowlton's analysis (1967).]

Dyar, Harrison G. 1904. Descriptions of new forms of the genus Illice Walker. Proc. Ent. Soc. Washington 6(4):197-199. [Describes several new species and varieties. All descriptions are very brief, based on one to seven specimens. Includes key to all known species and varieties.]

Holland, W. J. 1903 (1968 Dover reprint). The Moth Book. Dover Publ., New York. [Key to seven spp. of "Illice" (= Cisthene) on p. 109.]

Knowlton, Carroll B. 1967. A revision of the species of Cisthene known to occur north of the Mexican Border (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae: Lithosiinae). Trans. Amer. Ent. Soc., 93(1):41-100. Link to pdf copy available on BugGuide:

Lotts, K. and T. Naberhaus, [coordinators]. 2017. Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA). Bozeman, MT: Big Sky Institute. On-line posting: (, Version 09282017), accessed 28 September 2017.

Moth Photographers Group (MPG) website: (last accessed 28 September 2017).

Muller, Joseph. 1976. Third addition to the supplemental list of Macrolepidoptera of New Jersey. J. New York Ent. Soc., 84(3):197-200.

Neumoegen, B. and H. G. Dyar. 1893. A preliminary revision of the Bombyces of America, North of Mexico. J. New York Ent. Soc. 1(3):97-118. [p. 115 has brief key to 7 spp.]

Powell, Jerry A., and Paul A. Opler. 2009. Moths of Western North America. Univ. of Calif. Press, Berkeley.

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