October 27, 2020

Back Again From Wandering Westward

My wife and I just returned from another 5,000+ mile jaunt out west to see our daughter in Portland, OR. Ya know, scenery, mountains, rocks, trees … the same old stuff.

We took time to visit several national parks and other natural areas, so you’d think I’d have a lot of iNaturalist uploads to work on. Well, not so much. Aside from being late Fall in much of the region we traversed (e.g., the rabbitbrush was mostly finished blooming), the diagonal pathway we took from Austin, TX, to Portland, OR, and back traversed half a continent which is mostly in extreme to exceptional drought*. Symptoms of the drought (even in the Pac NW) included a sparsity of flowering plants and a major dirth of insects. Butterflies, for example, were extremely sparse everywhere. We’d see one or a few on a given day, sometimes none. It wasn’t until we dropped off the High Plains in Texas this past Sunday afternoon and exited the drought region that we began to see lots of butterflies on the wing. In the first 20 miles SE of Post, TX, I probably hit more butterflies on the grill of my car than we’d seen in the previous 5,000 miles of the trip.

In roughly chronological order, some of the locations we visited or passed through briefly included:

Arches National Park, UT
Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, UT
Snake River Birds of Prey Natural Area, ID
Mount Rainier NP, WA
Klamath Lake, OR
Battle Creek Wildlife Area (Coleman Fish Hatchery), Shasta Co., CA
US 50 (“Loneliest Road in America”) across central NV
Great Basin NP, NV
Bryce Canyon NP, UT
Kodachrome Basin SP, UT
Capitol Reef NP, UT
Glen Canyon NRA, UT

Despite their rich natural histories and beauty, we did not dawdle crossing Texas or New Mexico; the latter state still doesn’t want us to stay. Sigh…

I’ll have images of several dozen plants and a handful of critters to upload over the next week or so as time permits, but I’ll look forward to visiting many of the same locations (and new ones) on a future visit after the drought, after Covid … generally after the world gets back to something resembling “normal”, even if it's a "new normal".


Posted on October 27, 2020 14:34 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 4 comments | Leave a comment

September 04, 2020

Sorting out Feather-edged and Heppner's Petrophila

This journal post is a follow-up to my "A-hah!" moment published in early August*. I’m at a point in my next manuscript on the genus Petrophila that I need to sort out all the Texas observations of Feather-edged (fulicalis) and Heppner’s (heppneri) on iNaturalist which I was previously confusing. For the record, the two may be separated by the following set of field marks:

Fulicalis is overall a darker brown moth, usually with less orange in the various patches. On the FW, the pale speckled PM area has two or three conspicuous dark dots around its perimeter. Also on the FW, the orange tornal streak and the orange terminal band are separated at the base (at the anal angle). On the HW, the narrow pale median line is actually well-silvered; this can look whitish at some angles.

Heppneri: Overall somewhat paler brown with more apparent orange tint in various portions. The pale PM area of the FW is surrounded by a dusky circle but there are usually no conspicous dark dots around its margin. On the FW, the orange tornal streak and the orange terminal band are connected (wear can obscure this). On the HW, the pale median line is basically white, lacking any obvious silver scaling.

Both species have a dark capline over the top of some of the black HW eyespots. This capline tends to be shorter on fulicalis (just over 2 eyespots) but this is highly variable and subject to wear, or often not visible in photos.

Here is a typical fulicalis documented by @sambiology in Throckmorton County:
and others in Hood County by @k8thegr8 and @annikaml:

Here are a couple of the many beautiful heppneri documented by @ptexis in Val Verde County:
and another heppneri documented in Kerr County by @sambiology:

As I sort out the images, I have found that true Heppner’s Petrophila is confined to the southern half of the Edwards Plateau, documented thus far only in the following counties: Bandera, Blanco, Edwards, Kerr, Kimble, Real, Uvalde, and Val Verde. Records of this species pair outside of this region, such as north and east Texas, are known to or likely to refer to Feather-edged (e.g. a literature record by Blanchard & Knudson (1983) for Colorado County).

* See: https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/gcwarbler/39051-another-a-hah-moment-with-petrophila-moths

Posted on September 04, 2020 21:16 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 20, 2020

Colorado Camping Vacation

My wife and I made a camping excursion to the Vallecito area of s.w. Colorado, August 7-15, to momentarily get out of the Texas heat. (A great many Texans were apparently doing the same thing!) I’ll have many observations to upload including a boat-load of plants from NM and CO. I thought I’d start with the “low-hanging fruit”: I put up a moth sheet in the Forest Service campground at Vallecito on three evenings and had good results. In all, I probably documented something just shy of 100 species of moths. The first uploads will exhibit some of the more recognizable macromoths such as the few dozen species of Geometrids that showed up. There will also be a rather bewildering array of dark mottled Noctuids and many small grayish micros. The habitat at our campsite (7900 ft elevation) was Ponderosa Pine-Douglas Fir forest with some understory of Aspen and Gambel’s Oak. We were close to a steep mountain slope with much Blue Spruce, Limber Pine and a variety of understory plants.

Identifying these moths from the Rockies is just good brain exercise. Keep checking back.

Posted on August 20, 2020 15:30 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 40 observations | 3 comments | Leave a comment

August 03, 2020

Another "A-Hah!" Moment with Petrophila Moths

Since finishing my previous article clarifying Petrophila jaliscalis and P. santafealis (So. Lep. News 41(3):216-225, Sept. 2019), I have been working on a larger review of the identification of all of the North American members of this genus*. Happily, I have discovered some subtle ways of separating several of the most-often conflated species, especially in the “fulicalis-species group”. But I had been continually frustrated with the distributional patterns and wing patterns of the latter group across Texas and Oklahoma. There just seemed to be some unresolvable discord between assigned species names, wing patterns, biogeography, and DNA barcoding. So I let it all go for several months.

I recently began revisiting this entire mess, rereading original literature and pouring over imagery and barcode taxon trees. With the help of Occam’s Razor and a resounding believe in the constraints of biogeographic history and the fallibility of human endeavors, I came to a major realization this morning. A light-bulb went on. The skies parted and the sun shone. I figured it all out. (And if you believe that last statement, I have a bridge in London I’d like to sell you.) It’s a complex story that I will develop in full detail in my next manuscript, but here are the Cliff Notes, as I currently understand the situation:

  1. Contrary to my previous belief and assertions*, Petrophila fulicalis does in fact occur west of the Mississippi River, in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas—well down into central and south Texas in fact.
  2. Petrophila heppneri is primarily confined to the Texas Hill Country with one questionable outlier in Colorado County, TX, on the coastal plain.
  3. Petrophila heppneri and P. fulicalis may overlap narrowly in central Texas but to date I have only found one county (Hays) with valid records of both species. Heppneri basically occurs only on the southern half of the Edwards Plateau. Records of P. fulicalis essentially surround those of P. heppneri. I might expect that eventually this pair of species will be found to co-occur in places like Bexar, Blanco, Comal, Kerr, Val Verde, and Terrell counties.
  4. Petrophila hodgesi remains an Ozark ecoregional specialty but it occurs in close proximity to P. fulicalis in northeast Oklahoma and probably southern Missouri.
  5. Petrophila santafealis, heppneri, and probably hodgesi are all sister taxa to P. canadensis and with it represent a separate lineage (clade, if you will) to a fulicalis-confusalis lineage. The santafealis-hodgesi-heppneri group represents a southern offshoot of canadensis stock distributed patchily in limestone-derived watersheds in Florida, the Ozarks, and the Texas Hill Country. There are very scattered records of similar Petrophila moths in North Carolina and Alabama which to some degree bridge the gaps between the other “species” but the distribution of the group is not expected to be (and cannot be) continuous across the larger landscape. All of these southern populations are probably relictual from some previous wetter or cooler Holocene or late Pleistocene era.

Small footnote: The enigmatic barcode BIN BOLD:AAG9560 was part of the impediment to understanding all of this. Two of its 14 members (Mark Dreiling’s OK specimens) had been labeled “Petrophila hodgesi”. A search on BOLD for the latter taxon brings up images of 7 specimens: Mark’s 2 OK specimens and 5 from Washington Co., AR. Here’s the rub: Mark’s 2 specimens are actually fulicalis (both by wing pattern and by barcode analysis) and the 5 Arkansas specimens, which appear to be legitimate hodgesi, don’t have a BIN assigned to them. That leaves hodgesi without a verified, assigned barcode, as of today.

All of this will be set out in detail in my next manuscript. I will NOT be making any substantial moves or changes to identifications on iNaturalist.org or BugGuide.net until I have something resembling a completed manuscript, but there will be a substantial number of re-identifications at the appropriate moment.

I know you are all on the edge of your seats… ;-)

* See also: https://www.inaturalist.org/posts/27047-id-guide-6-notes-on-texas-petrophila-identification

Posted on August 03, 2020 14:28 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 6 comments | Leave a comment

July 27, 2020

iPhoto Disaster

I wanted to take a moment to explain my current and upcoming sparse attendance to iNaturalist: Just before Noon today, July 26, our home suffered an extremely brief power outage (or surge?--I'm not sure) which caused my computer to restart. That always screws up iPhoto if I have it open at the time. During the 30+ min. that it was taking for iPhoto to check its library and database upon restart, we had another brief power glitch. That apparently corrupted the iPhoto library or database thoroughly. iPhoto still launches but cannot find my 150,000-image photo library. The iPhoto Library still appears in its proper place and size, but I have made no headway in getting either iPhoto or Photos to recognize it and open it.

Without going into all the remediation efforts I've made so far, suffice it to say, that I'm looking at the loss of anywhere from 25 to 75% of my images (depending on what kind of back-up I can access). I'm devoting full time to resolving this issue with every resource available to me. It will take some time. As a result, I will not be spending as much time on iNaturalist in the near future as I normally do (several hours per day). I will check in occasionally, but until/unless I fix the current problem, I will not be uploading anything new for awhile.


Posted on July 27, 2020 03:03 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 11 comments | Leave a comment

June 17, 2020

My iNaturalist Upload Process

I may be the slowest (read: most delinquent) uploader on iNaturalist. For any given effort, especially for the wonderful bioblitz’s that I enjoy participating in, I’m usually the last to get all my stuff up on iNat. An honest mea culpa for such delays will have to admit to being somewhat lazy, somewhat sleep deprived, somewhat addicted to certain TV shows, and generally just interested in what is right in front of me right now, as opposed to “yesterday”. All that said, my editing process is a bit arduous because of my equipment and my personal preferences for image and upload quality. Ignoring all those earlier reasons for my typical pathway to uploads, I thought it might be of some limited interest to at least document the torture I put myself through when I actually do get around to handling my observations. So here are some details.


My trusted photographic equipment is my now-infamous little Canon PowerShot SX620 HS point-and-hope camera. It has the advantage of portability and affordability. I won’t bemoan all the disadvantages, but for present discussion, the main problem—are you listening Canon?—is its lack of GPS datalogging capability with images. That adds one major time-consuming step to my editing pathway, as listed below.

My Editing Steps:

When I’m in the field, especially on a multi-day trip, I download all images daily from the SD card to my travel laptop but keep the images on the card. A 32-gig SD card is sufficient to last me through a 10-day to 2-week trip, depending on how many plant and moth images I take. (I always carry one or two extra cards just in case.) I will often examine my images on the laptop while traveling but I don’t do much editing (other than to examine what I might have documented) because the laptop is not the final destination of the images. The real work begins when I get home to my desktop computer.

I work on an iMac desktop computer (currently running MacOS Mojave 10.14.6) and I’m still using iPhoto (9.6.1 which is now 5 years out of support).

  1. Download the images. I usually let iPhoto separate all the downloaded images into daily “Events”. I manipulate and change those events later on as I organize and group my photos based on destination, subject, etc.
  2. Geotag ALL images. Before any editing starts, I have to make sure all images have proper geographic location data. I add this manually in iPhoto. I can do this in batches based on separate locations, but if I was moving from place to place in a given field day, this can be very tedious. Recall that I don’t have GPS capabilities on the camera, so I either have to take detailed field notes (which I do) to associate batches of images with a known location, or I have to supplement the image set by photographing a screen image of a GPS app when I’m in the field or photograph some other landmark (e.g. a street sign, an Allsups storefront, etc.) so that I can properly place my images.
  3. Rotate, straighten, and crop images. My many iNat friends know how obsessive I am about this step. From a busy bioblitz day in the field, I may have 300 to 600 images to rotate, straighten, and crop (and discard the many blurry ones). Because of the menu structure in iPhoto, these three steps are usually easy to accomplish for a given image in succession. That said, I’m frequently switching between/among image dimensions (4 x 3, 3 x 4, square) from one image to the next; this adds to the editing time significantly. One image proportion does NOT fit all. I may also try two or three different crops for a given image to see which captures the best detail. In some cases, particularly with plants, I may duplicate an image to allow cropping to mutliple details of the plant which might be important for documentation. This all takes time.
  4. Adjust image quality. For many images, the field settings of the camera are often sufficient and the images don’t need post-processing. However, depending on the subject of the pic, or for images taken at dawn, dusk, or at night, it is often useful to brighten an image, brighten the shadows, and/or heighten the contrast to bring out details. As an added burden, when I shoot moth images, to avoid washing out images from a flash at close range I often shoot moths at -1/3 f-stop exposure. I find that on a white sheet or a light gray wall, this can result in images that are a shade too dark—the alternative, over-exposure, results in lost imagery—so I have to brighten many moth images after the fact. Changing the camera settings in real time when obtaining the photos is just too tedious and risky—“shoot now and post-process later!” IMPORTANT NOTE: I rarely adjust colors, hues, or saturation unless the images were obtained in some type of overly intrusive lighting conditions (certain MV and UV lamps, etc.).

    Now the fun begins:

  5. Add keywords and tags. The primary keywords I use on all photos are taxonomic. I use these extensively within iPhoto for organizing and sorting images later. For plants, I have a few general categories including “Plants_flowers”, “Fungi”, “Lichen”, and a few others. For all animals other than insects, I typically use a class or order such as “Mammal”, “Reptile”, “Amphibian”, “Arachnid”, “Opiliones”, etc. For herps, I’ll also add “Snake”, “Frog”, “Turtle”, etc. For all insects except Lepidoptera, I add the order such as “Coleoptera”, “Hemiptera”, “Diptera”, etc. For Leps, I distinguish “Butterfly” and “Moth”. All moths get the “Moth” keyword as well as a family keyword and in a few cases a subfamily tag; these will look like “Gelechiidae”, “Noctuidae”, “Erebidae”, “Arctiinae”, “Pyraustinae”, etc. I have a standby “Fam Unk” for moths which I can’t place; this allows me to collect all those unknowns into one location if desired. For any batch of pics from a field effort, I also apply other keywords for images of “Habitat”, “People”, etc. On long vacations (other than in Texas), I will also add a keyword for the two-letter state abbreviation (AZ, OK, VA, etc.). All this keywording can be done in batches in iPhoto by selecting the appropriate subset of images and adding a keyword once.
  6. Add file titles. My images come off the camera with the sequential filename “IMG_xxxx” numbered from 0001 to 9999 (and repeating). I have found it most convenient to change the “IMG” to the species or taxon identification. With a recent change on iNaturalist, this offers a huge advantage because this filename is now parsed from the image title and added as an identification for each observation. I use scientific names for all of these except for birds which get the standard 4-letter code (such as NOCA_1234 or MODO_5678). Of course, I title my images with the lowest taxon of which I’m certain, so I end up with images named “Melipotis indomita_1234”, “Gelechiidae_1234”, “Calyptocarpus vialis_5678”, “Malvaceae_5678”, etc. Naturally, at this stage, I am identifying all my images, so adding the proper names to each image can either be quick (for familiar plants and animals) OR the culmination of in depth research which takes me all over the place in references, on the internet, etc. This is really the bulk of my iNatting effort at home. Chasing down identifications can lead me down any number of rabbit holes and to various distractions (deep dives in scientific literature, etc.). It also gives me some good exercise as I rifle through the tons of field guides, floras, and manuals on the desk next to the computer. I’ve often joked that when I depart, my obituary will indicate that I was found lifeless under a fallen stack of floras and field guides in my home office.

    Truly, when I finally place a good name on an image for a species new to me, it is one of the most gratifying moments in this whole process. Perhaps that’s the childhood stamp collector in me. Who knows.

    I should add that step 6 and the research that necessarily accompanies it is done in batches. From a given field effort (location, date), I’ll work through all the plants before moving on to other animals, moths, etc. For the Matador WMA bioblitz, for instance, I’m going through all the images of a given day, taking on just the Coleoptera, then the Diptera, then other insects, etc., etc. Then on to the next day or next destination.

  7. Export images. When I have things all or mostly organized, edited, and identified (to a reasonable degree), I export images out of iPhoto to a separate “Uploads” folder on my computer. This separate exporting step allows me to select a good upload size (large but not full sized) and to keep the work flow organized. As with the identification and file naming steps, I will usually do this exporting in batches (plants, beetles, moths, etc.) because it leads directly into the uploading stage. Since this adds a significant amount of disk storage to create these duplicate images (outside of the iPhoto library), I occasionally offload all final images to an external drive and delete them from my desktop computer. I just checked my external drive: The accumulated storage for all my final edited iNat images to date (approaching 26K observations) is about 58 gigabytes.
  8. Upload images. After exporting a batch of final images to my Uploads folder, I use the batch uploader on iNat to upload my observations. I drag and drop and then begin addiing or double-checking IDs, locations, etc., and adding the all-important observation comments. IMPORTANT: Because the batch uploader occasionally hangs up or I make small mistakes in my upload information, I tend to upload only about 10 to 15 observations at a time. That way, I haven’t lost much work if the upload fails or if I have introduced any errors. Even with the efficiency of the batch uploader (a whole other topic), I still make a point of adding geographic names to my observations since iNat’s locational information comes from Google Maps or some other generic source, not my “official” placenames.
  9. Hit the Upload button, sit back, cross fingers, and enjoy the results. I try to glance through all newly uploaded observations just to catch any name or geography errors that I may have introduced. There’s always something. In my senior years now, I find that my brain and fingers don’t communicate as well as they used to when typing. Verb tenses, homonyms and homophones are my bane; my brain knows better, my fingers don’t.

As part of that final enjoyment of an upload—or even during the process of identifying and labeling images (step 6)—I will often take the time to wander through other observations of the same species to see where else the species has been documented. In particular, if it’s a species I am confident at identifying, I’ll take the time to try to upgrade any suitable images of the same species to Research Grade as appropriate.

And that’s my life in a nutshell.

Posted on June 17, 2020 16:46 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 10 comments | Leave a comment

April 24, 2020

CNC 2020 During CV19

I’m charging ahead with an enthusiastic City Nature Challenge, but of course, this year is very different. While I could probably safely meander around our 6-county “Greater Austin Area”, I have chosen this year to honor the stay-at-home order still in place and focus all my efforts on Salton Drive. More specifically, I’m confining my CNC efforts to my own 0.4-acre urban lot and the adjacent segment of Laurel Oak Creek, about 100 yards up- and downstream. My wife and I are blessed to have a real suburban nature enclave here on Salton Drive:
Our lot backs up to a beautiful small Hill Country creek (Laurel Oak Branch of Bull Creek) and, although somewhat urbanized, it still constitutes a tremendous urban wildlife amenity. It is perennial, partially naturally spring-fed, and runs clear all year except after heavy rainstorms. See the banner image for the Salton Drive Biodiversity project, linked above. I have spent much of the past 17 years here eliminating invasive species such as Elephant Ears, Ligustrums, Hedge Parsley, and Chinese Tallow, and replanting with a high diversity of native species. Similar efforts have been focused in the front and back yards; we maintain only a minimal San Augustine grass front yard patch for our dog and devote all the rest to native plants and butterfly gardening.
The results of my iNat efforts on Salton Drive thus far are very gratifying, yet we are still finding new biota all the time. This CNC will probably push the cumulative effort to over 7000 observations which have documented upwards of 1300 species of plants and animals. (I know, I know! Nearly half of that total are moths, but, hey, it's all "biodiversity"!) The next four days will be an effort to create a snapshot in time (late April in a fairly wet year so far) of this Salton Drive Biodiversity. My uploads will include everything native and naturalized that I can encounter, uncover, capture, or otherwise document with my little point-and-hope camera, along with some sound recordings with the Voice Memo app on my phone, and perhaps a few trail camera pics as well. This will include, among other efforts, some time spent wading in the creek to document aquatic species, and at least a few moments in my dusty garage to chase down at least one of the silverfish that continue to eat my old papers and books stored therein.
We are all happy and healthy here on Salton Drive. Enjoy all of the CNC efforts and be safe!
Chuck Sexton

Posted on April 24, 2020 21:39 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 9 observations | 3 comments | Leave a comment

October 10, 2019

ID Guide 7: Eoreuma-Diatraea-Donacaula

From our recent Timberlake bioblitz, it was clear that we were (collectively) confusing at least three different Crambid genera which have elongate triangular cream-colored wings. We labeled images of apparently the same individuals or similar moths as Eoreuma, Diatraea, and Donacaula. I was getting quite confused so I went back to sources including MPG, BOLD, and BG (not assuming everything there was properly IDed) and here’s what I think I’ve figured out:

Eoreuma: FW outer margin fairly square and rather straight. Veins are pale, flanked by fine dark speckling. The “discal dot” is at the end of the FW cell. Five species have been recorded in Texas but by far the most common one is E. densellus which occurs in Central, South, and East Texas.

Diatraea: FW outer margin fairly square and rather straight. Veins are darker than ground color, flanked by pale strips inbetween. I’m not seeing any small dark speckling along the veins. Discal dot is at end of FW cell same as Eoreuma. The two most common species in Texas appear to be D. evanescens and D. lisetta both of which are primarily found in deep E Texas.
(D. lisetta has rows of brown spots across FW.)

Donacaula: FW is much more pointed with an angular acute tip. In most species/examples, there is a dark brown streak through the length of the FW. Discal dot is actually beyond the FW cell. Eight spp. recorded in Texas; most widespread is D. mellinellus.

Based on this review, I think I’m seeing primarily Eoreuma densellus among our Timberlake “catch”.

Posted on October 10, 2019 03:07 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 3 comments | Leave a comment

August 30, 2019

ID Guide 6: Notes on Texas Petrophila Identification

In my previous post, I described an “Ah-hah!” moment I had recently with some of the Texas species of Petrophila (Lepidoptera: Crambidae). Before I settle in to write a longer dissertation on the identification of all the species in this genus in the U.S., I thought it might be beneficial at least to jot down some of my latest notes for the more local scene.

So once again, here is the array of purported species of Petrophila previously ascribed to Texas. I list the Hodges numbers and I’m giving some of them new common names for ease of communication:

Petrophila daemonalis (#4771), Devil’s River Petrophila
Petrophila cappsi (#4772), Capps’ Petrophila
Petrophila kearfottalis (#4773), Kearfott’s Petrophila*
Petrophila bifascialis (#4774), Two-banded Petrophila
Petrophila jaliscalis (#4775), Jalisco Petrophila
Petrophila fulicalis (#4777), Feather-edged Petrophila
Petrophila confusalis (#4780), Confusing Petrophila*
Petrophila avernalis (#4781), Spring Petrophila
Petrophila cronialis (#4782), Crony Petrophila*
Petrophila longipennis (#4783), Long-winged Petrophila*
Petrophila schaefferalis (#4784), Schaeffer’s Petrophila
Petrophila heppneri (#4784.1), Heppner’s Petrophila

Below I describe the best field marks that I can find for each species along with notes on their range and occurrence (or non-occurrence) in Texas. I include a link either to the iNat species page or a particularly good example of each species. Abbreviations: FW = forewing, HW = hindwing, AM = antemedial, PM = postmedial.


This is one of the most recognizable Petrophila’s. It has the most extensive golden yellow color on both the FWs and HWs. In particular, the yellow on the HW goes all the way out to the row of submarginal black eyespots.
This species is primarily a Texas Hill Country specialist, being most frequently encountered near the rivers and streams draining the southern edge of the Edwards Plateau. But it has also been recorded in Hays and Comal Counties and there is an iNat record in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

This species has long been overlooked. The forewings are nearly identical to Two-banded Petrophila but the HW is distinctive in having a black line forming an open loop in the middle instead of a solid black blotch. I’m still working on how to separate those two species when only the FWs are visible. I had previously mistaken this species for Kearfott’s Petrophila, but that species has the two median orange bands on the FWs of equal width and has a dark line over the innermost black eyespots on the HW. Kearfott’s is rare in Texas, if it occurs here at all.
Originally described from Kerrville, Capp’s Petrophila is now known to range from the Devil’s River, across all of the Edwards Plateau, up through the DFW area into south-central Oklahoma. It thus overlaps broadly with Two-banded in Texas but it seems to be much less common.

When the HW is in good view, this species is easy to recognize by the sold black blotch in the middle of the white area. Otherwise, it looks a lot like Capps’ Petrophila. The brown/orange bands on either side of the median white line on the FWs are of different widths, the outer one being considerably narrower. That will distinguish this species from Kearfott’s but the two probably don’t overlap in range. Lange (1956) suggested that Two-banded might occasionally have an open loop on the HW, a rumor carried forward by Munroe (1972), but I can find no evidence that this is true. All such Petrophila's in Texas with an open loop are now identified as Capps' Petrophila.
Two-banded is probably the next most common Petrophila in Texas after Jalisco. It occurs in a broad band from Monterrey, Mexico, through south Texas, the Edwards Plateau, and up through north-central Texas into south-central Oklahoma. Curiously, it has not been found in East Texas; there is a significant gap in its range between Oklahoma/Texas and the rest of its widespread population in the northeast U.S.

Readily recognizable in most instances by the reddish brown or burnt orange color swatches on the FWs and HWs. Worn examples can look paler orange or even pink. The HW is extensively speckled in the middle with a narrow white band in front of the submarginal eyespots. There is no dark line over those eyespots.
Jalisco Petrophila is by far the most frequently encountered Petrophila in the Edwards Plateau and up to north-central Texas and into Oklahoma. There are small numbers of records just a bit east of I-35 but it doesn’t occur in East Texas. It ranges well down into Mexico, and westward across southern New Mexico, Arizona, and through much of California. Until recently, many online images and some barcoded specimens were erroneously labeled as “Petrophila santafealis” but I have cleared up that mess (Sexton, C. 2019. Southern Lep. News 41(3):216-225).

This is another species which has been confused in the literature and images. It has a conspicuous zigzag median white line and the PM area is usually the darkest area of the FW; it often shows a bold white-black-white dash or blotch in the middle of the PM area; the first of the two subapical white wedges is notably squiggly as it approaches the costal margin.. Compared to other similar species, all the white crosslines on the FW are crisp and bold. When the HW is visible, it is more easily recognized due to the presence of about 7 or 8 small submarginal eyespots rather than the 5 or 6 larger ones on most other species; the middle of the HW is grizzled gray nearly to the edge of the eyespots. Also, the HW has a continuous orange terminal line (usually alternating black and orange in most other species). The species has been confused with Long-winged and Crony Petrophila; online images are still not fully squared away.
Spring Petrophila ranges from Arizona and Colorado, south through New Mexico and the Trans-Pecos of Texas, thence into Mexico. An image in Knudson & Bordelon’s illustrated checklist for the Davis Mountains labeled “Petrophila cronialis” appears to be a standard Spring Petrophila.
I selected the common name “Spring Petrophila” as an adaptation of the Latin epithet “avernalis”. The species actually flies from February to September.

This species is grizzled dark gray-brown with little evidence of the underlying typical Petrophila pattern of bands and wedges, not unlike Long-winged, but smaller and darker than that species. The more basal of the two subapical white wedges is quite narrow and curves strongly towards the wing base as it approaches the costa. There is a small dark dusky discal loop in the middle of the PM area of the FW which shows up on most images. The HW margin has two alternating series of four small eyespots; the rest of the HW is fairly uniformly grizzled dark gray-brown with no white band in front of the marginal eyespots.
Schaeffer’s Petrophila has a broad range from southern California to west Texas (Trans-Pecos and High Plains) but is sparse everywhere.

After years of confusion with Feather-edged and Confusing Petrophila’s, we’ve only recently begun to recognize that Heppner’s Petrophila is a Texas Hill Country endemic related to this set of closely-similar species. It's actually most closely related to the more widespread Canadian Petrophila of the Northeast. The color patches on the FWs are light yellow-orange. It is a fairly small species with a prominent zigzag medial white line, and an orange-filled, dusky oval loop in the middle of the PM area of the FW. There is a prominent orange tornal wedge extending from the anal angle of the FW diagonally back into the middle of the wing (but has less extensive orange than on Devil's River Petrophila). The PM area of the HW is speckled dark gray brown. The series of big submarginal eyespots has an irregular line capping the innermost two or three, a mark absent on most other Texas species. The species is extremely similar to Feather-edged Petrophila.
Heppner's Petrophila was originally described from Kerr, Blanco, Colorado, and Kimble counties in Texas. More recent records also include Bandera, Edwards, Real, Uvalde, and Val Verde counties. It is thus apparently confined to the southern half of the Texas Hill Country, east mainly to the Balcones Escarpment, and west to about the Devil's River. Blanchard & Knudson's recitation of a collection on the coastal plain in Colorado County may be questionable.

Moths identical in pattern to Feather-edged Petrophila from east of the Mississippi River occur in north-central, central, and south Texas from Denton, Wise, and Throckmorton counties, south as far as Bexar, Goliad, and Harris counties. There are isolated records in Starr and Terrell counties. Thus far Feather-edged has not been documented in the southern Hill Country where Heppner's Petrophila is found. The two may overlap slightly along the Balcones Escarpment but don't they seem to occur together locally.


Munroe indicated that Kearfott’s Petrophila ranges into “western Texas” but after having clarified how to ID this and separate it from Capps’ Petrophila, I have found NO online images or reports of the species here. It can be recognized by: (a) wide, equal width orange bands on either side of the median white line on the FW, (b) whitish basal and PM area of the FW with little speckling, (c) HW has an open black loop in the middle (like Capps’) but also has a thin black line over some of the submarginal eyespots.
Kearfott’s Petrophila ranges from southern California, east to New Mexico and north through the Rocky Mountain region to Idaho and Montana. It may yet be found in the Trans-Pecos of Texas; I’d expect it to be present in McKittrick Canyon in Guadalupe Mountains NP.

This aptly named species is a member of the widespread “fulicalis-species group” which includes 6 species spread from coast to coast, but the ranges of most of them don’t overlap. There were a few reports of this species from Texas and adjacent Mexico, but we now know that those refer to either Feather-edged Petrophila or the regional endemic Heppner’s Petrophila. The whole set of species has extremely similar wing patterns and some may not even be specifically distinct.
Confusing Petrophila ranges from California north to British Columbia and east to Nevada, Idaho, and Montana.

[There are no good illustrations of confidently identified examples.]
A mysterious species which Munroe (1972, p. 129) indicated ranges from Nogales and the Huachuca Mts of Arizona south into Mexico. He did not illustrate either the adult nor the genitalia. The original illustration by Druce (1896) in Biologia Centrali-Americana looks at best like a generalized Petrophila and Munroe’s description is also pretty generic. This has left everyone guessing at what ought to be “Petrophila cronialis”. There is one BIN on BOLD Systems (BOLD:ADK0852) which has been labeled cronialis; all of the specimens are from Yavapai County, AZ, which also happens to be the type locality of a newly-described species P. anna (Solis & Tuskes 2018) which incidentally matches the old descriptions of cronialis. I suspect that P. anna will be found to be a synonym of P. cronialis.
As mentioned above, Knudson & Bordelon illustrate a specimen purporting to be P. cronialis in their Davis Mts illustrated checklist, but it appears to be a pretty typical Spring Petrophila.

http://v3.boldsystems.org/index.php/Public_BarcodeCluster?clusteruri=BOLD:AAH5276 (a series of unspread specimens in poor condition)
This is the other Petrophila which has a row of about 8 small black eyespots on the margin of the HW instead of the 5 or 6 larger ones. It shares this with Spring Petrophila (above). As implied by the English name I’ve provided, it is a giant in the genus with FWs as long as 15-16 mm in the female, a bit smaller in the male. The FWs are extensively grizzled gray-brown, obscuring most of the underlying typical Petrophila series of bands and wedges. The obscure medial white line is zigzag as in Spring Petrophila, but the more basal of the two white subapical wedges is quite thin, much narrower than the subterminal one, and it is usually concave basally. The HW has extensive gray grizzling, much finer than the speckling of many other Petrophila’s.
Knudson & Bordelon include it on their Texas checklist (Jan 2018 edition) but I have found no solid records of the species in Texas (none on iNat, BG, MPG, BOLD, SCAN, or GBIF). MPG and BOLD (BIN BOLD:AAH5276, but not AAI4817) have records of Long-winged only in Arizona.

Posted on August 30, 2019 18:56 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 11 comments | Leave a comment

ID Guide 5: Petrophila Research

How did you spend the heat of the summer? Here's what's kept me off the street:

I’ve been deep into study of the genus in Petrophila (Lepidoptera: Crambidae) in Texas and far beyond for the past few months. The initial inspiration for the renewed study was to clarify the confusion over the Jalisco Petrophila (P. jaliscalis of Texas, Oklahoma, and westward to California) and the Florida endemic Santa Fe Petrophila (P. santafealis). That manuscript goes to print in September (Southern Lepidopteris' News), so I’m turning my attention to the rest of the genus. Encouraged by some of the reviewers of the previous manuscript, I’ll eventually take on an ID article for the whole genus. For the time being, I wanted to offer some fresh thoughts on the members of this genus occurring in Texas. I had a major breakthrough (breakdown?) today on some of the tougher ID challenges. Below are some of my newest ideas.

For starters: Here is the array of purported species of Petrophila previously ascribed to Texas. I list the Hodges numbers and I’m giving some of them new common names for ease of communication:

Petrophila daemonalis (#4771), Devil’s River Petrophila
Petrophila cappsi (#4772), Capps’ Petrophila
Petrophila kearfottalis (#4773), Kearfott’s Petrophila*
Petrophila bifascialis (#4774), Two-banded Petrophila
Petrophila jaliscalis (#4775), Jalisco Petrophila
Petrophila confusalis (#4780), Confusing Petrophila*
Petrophila avernalis (#4781), Spring Petrophila
Petrophila cronialis (#4782), Crony Petrophila*
Petrophila longipennis (#4783), Long-winged Petrophila*
Petrophila schaefferalis (#4784), Schaeffer’s Petrophila
Petrophila heppneri (#4784.1), Heppner’s Petrophila

  • May not occur in Texas, despite earlier reports.

(P. bifascialis, P. kearfottalis, and P. cappsi)

Two-banded is quite common and widespread in much of Central Texas, ranging up into Oklahoma. It also occurs in the n.e. US. A key field mark for Two-banded is the solid black spot in the middle of the HW. For years now, I have been identifying similar moths which have an open loop as “Petrophila kearfottalis” but I had a nagging feeling that wasn’t quite right. There is an old suggestion (Lange 1956) that Two-banded can have an open loop on the HW; that would throw a real monkey wrench into all of this. At the same time, the mysterious Capps' Petrophila, which was originally described from Kerrville and which was described as having an open loop on the HW, was hiding in the wings unnoticed and unappreciated. A couple of lines of new evidence have come together over the past week: (a) I reviewed all of the barcodes for the genus Petrophila available on the BOLD Systems website. (Whew!) Among them is barcode index number (BIN) BOLD:ADB2794 which has several Oklahoma specimens identified as P. cappsi which look just like the stuff I’ve been identifying in Texas as P. kearfottalis. Something didn’t jive. (b) After all this review, I’d still never confidently identified a Two-banded with an open loop on the HW so I began to think, “What if Lange was wrong, and all those open-loop versions were actually something else?” So I poured over all the imagery I could get my hands on (iNat, BG, MPG, BOLD) and realized it all made perfect sense if I make the following simplifying ASSUMPTIONS:

  1. There is NO version of Two-banded with an open loop on the HW, or if it exists, it is so rare that it can be ignored.
  2. The open-loop Petrophila’s we’re seeing in CenTex that look like the P. cappsi identified in BOLD:ADB2794, are in fact Capps' Petrophila and NOT Kearfott's.
  3. Assumption 2 clarified my confusion regarding the pseudo-Kearfott’s Petrophila’s that I’d been naming in Central Texas and allowed me to view true Kearfott’s for what it was: a species of the western US with distinct pattern elements very different from our Texas stuff.

Now all of a sudden, the skies lifted and it all became clear: Capps’ and Kearfott’s Petrophila are closely related geographic replacements within the genus. Each set of images within the now clarified ranges are very consistent and very recognizable. And although Munroe (1972, p. 121) states that Kearfott’s Petrophila ranges into western Texas, I haven’t found any examples of good-looking Kearfott’s in Texas yet.

In the next few days, I will be shaking up the Texas Petrophila world by re-identifying all the previous Kearfott’s as the once-hidden Capps' Petrophila. I also hope to pick out some way—any way—to discriminate between Two-banded and Capps’ when the HW isn’t visible. I’m working on that; I think I’m close.

Posted on August 30, 2019 04:56 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 6 comments | Leave a comment