Dates and Locations
The Owl Moth has been recorded throughout eastern North America, Central America, and ranges south at least to the southeastern-most Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. It is also found on the larger Caribbean Islands of Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. It is also found on Bermuda and the Galapagos Islands. However, unlike the much more common Black Witch (Ascalapha odorata), there are no U.S. Owl Moth records west of Texas, nor is it found on Hawaii.
Covell (1986) reports this moth flying in "all months in southern Florida and southern Texas," however Kimball (1965), in his annotated checklist of Florida Lepidoptera, lists only three specific records for Florida, one in Aug 1904 and two in July. The latter two specimens are in the American Museum of Natural History and were collected in 1916 (Suzanne Rab Green, pers. comm., April 2008). Heppner's (2003) revised catalog of Florida Lepidoptera adds no new T. zenobia records and reports the species as a "stray". I am unaware of any T. zenobia Florida records for the previous 90 years.
I have found no Texas records from January through May. With but one exception, all U.S. and Canada records follow the June onset of the rainy season in Mexico.
In 34 years of continuous light trapping in Louisiana, Vernon Brou (2003) collected only three specimens of Owl Moths in July, September, and November.
Caveney (2007) reports 14 Owl moth records from Canada. The western-most and northern-most record was collected in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Neil (1979) reports the eastern-most record at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. It was collected in late summer or early fall 1944. The specimen is in the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, Halifax.
The southern-most records are perhaps the two specimens (collected in 1946 & 1951) reported by Specht et al. (2004) from Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state in Brazil. However, Pastrana (2004) reports the moth from Argentina and Uruguay with no further data. Uruguay and southern Brazil are approximately 30 degrees south of the equator. Note that the northern-most records are at approximately 50 degrees north of the equator.
Early North American Records
Early North American records include Grote (1875) who reported in a foot note that "Professor [Charles Valentine] Riley informs me that this species occurred at Davenport [Iowa]." Kilman (1889) gave a detailed report of a specimen he collected while sugaring for Catocala outside of Ridgeway, Ontario, Canada on August 22, 1888. The specimen is curated in the Ontario Agricultural College. Kilman wrote of his encounter with the moth:
|"The sensation which a hunter is said to experience on sighting his first deer came upon me, for I was unprepared for such an encounter. However, the monster was taken."|
Dyar (1902), unaware of Grote's and Kilman's records, states the moth's range as Florida and South America without elaboration. Felt (1907) led off his annual report on the insects of New York with a short discussion of an Owl Moth found in Albany. Felt doubts that the moth arrived under its own powers:
A remarkable large South American moth (Thysania zenobia Cramer) was taken in Albany the last of September. This magnificent moth has a wing spread of about 5 inches and its occurrence in this city is undoubtedly due to its having been brought north with a boat load of bananas or other tropical fruit. This capture is an example of the way in which insects are distributed through commercial agencies, though in the present instance it happens to be a species which can not sustain itself in this latitude.
Farquhar (1934), in his survey of New England Lepidoptera reported only two Owl Moths, one from Massachusetts and the other from Rhode Island.
Rings et al (1992) show five county records collected between 1890 and 1987 in Ohio from late August to early October. Specific Ohio data provided below from The Ohio Lepidopterists, with support from the Division of Wildlife of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
In Sept. of 1945 a farmer
friend of mine brought in a large moth he found in a whey barrel
on his farm. It turned out to be a very torn male T. zenobia.
In August 1940 I observed a large specimen on bait. In September
1942 a very fine male T. zenobia was attracted to light on
my back stoop.
An Island Affinity?
There are 142 T. zenobia records in the Harvard University's Caribbean Plants & Insects Database from Hispaniola and Jamaica (as of April 2008). All Owl Moth specimens in this database are curated at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The largest number of Owl Moths collected anywhere was the 120 collected on the Dominican Republic from 1985 to 2003. Eight specimens were collected on the Haiti side of Hispaniola. The specimens of this set with data were collected from 1925 to 1934. Ten Owl Moths were collected on Jamaica from 1891 to 1936. These Caribbean records are primarily from July to November with only a few recorded from March, May and June. The Caribbean Islands may be the source of the few strays to Florida.
Gundlach (1881) reports three Owl Moths, all in eastern-most Cuba in vicinity of what is now Guantánamo. However, neither Wolcott (1936) nor Schaus (1940) report the moth for Puerto Rico. The presence/abundance of the moth has apparently changed as Dr. Luis Roberto Hernández (pers. comm., 9 Apr 2008) reports that it is now "very common [and] found in the west and central mountains [of Puerto Rico] and in my experience is common in all Cuba. I suppose because Cassia spp. and Senna spp. are very abundant in both islands."
Roque (1999) reported the first records the Owl Moth for the Galapagos Islands which lay some 600 miles off the west coast of South America. Roque collecting four fresh Owl Moths on two Galapagos Islands from April 1996 to March 1997.
|Between 20 and 25 April 1996, three fresh males were collected in a Mercury vapor light trap near Asilo de la Paz, Floreana Island, at 338 m elevation. The trap was located at the border of the agricultural zone and native forest. In March 1997, I collected another specimen in a forest of the endemic composite, Scalesia pedunculata Hook at Los Gemelos, Santa Cruz island, at 580 m elevation, feeding in a bait trap (mixture of rotting fruit). The fresh condition of these specimens suggested that they were from a population extant on the island, rather than migrant.|
Records Listed by Month
|Arkansas||Washington Co.||Fayetteville||April 26, 1979||UAAM|
||May 8, 2012
||At bait, Berry Nall|
================ General Beginning of Rainy Season in Mexico =================
||June 6, 2012
||Photo (sb MAQ)
|Texas||Midland Co.||Midland||June 27, 2004||(sight record)|
|Texas||Midland Co.||Midland||June 29, 2004||(sight record)|
|Texas||Midland Co.||Midland||July ~1, 2004||(sight record)|
||July 13, 2012
||Photo (sb: MAQ)|
|Ontario||Point Pelee||July 22, 1941||CNC|
|Illinois||Champaign Co.||Trelease Woods||July 24, 1977||INHS|
|South Dakota||Brookings Co.||4 mi northeast of White||July 28, 2004||Photo|
|Regina (western & northern-most rec.)||July 30, 1973||RSM|
|Louisiana||July ??, 19??||Brou, 2003|
|Florida||Chokoloskee||July ??, 19??||two, AMNH|
|Texas||Cameron Co.||Audubon Sabal Palm Sanctuary||Aug 02, 1997||LepSoc-SS|
|Connecticut||Fairfield Co.||Greenwich||Aug 03, 1941||Remington, 1950|
|Iowa||Hardin Co.||Iowa Falls (at bait)||Aug 12, 1996||LepSoc-SS|
Renforth (eastern-most record)
|Mid-Aug 1903||Petch, 1939|
|Illinois||LaSalle Co.||Synder's Grove, Mendota||Aug 16, 2007||on sugar slop|
|Arkansas||Washington Co.||Fayetteville vicinity||Aug 17, 1964||UAAM|
Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Morgan Arboretum
|Aug 17, 1972||at bait, a male|
|Texas||Lee Co.||Aug 19,1978||TAMUIC|
|Ontario||Ridgeway||Aug, 20, 1888||Ont. Ag. College|
|New York||Queens Co.||Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge||Aug 20, 2004||(sight record)|
|Quebec||Quebec City||Aug 21, 1946||Handfield (1999)|
|Kentucky||McCraken Co.||6 mi. SW of Paducah (at light)||Aug 23, 1974||Covell, 1999|
|South Dakota||Stanley Co.||2 mi S Oahe Dam||Aug 24, 2004||at bait, LepSoc-SS|
|Florida||Egmont Key||Aug 26, 1904||University Miami|
|New York||Monroe Co.||Pittsford||Aug 26, 2006||Photo (sb:MAQ)*|
|Illinois||Union Co.||Bald Knob (Alto Pass)||Aug 29, 1994||male, coll. Jim Wiker|
|Texas||Lubbock Co.||Lubbock||Aug 30, 2006||male, photo (sb:MAQ)|
|Wisconsin||Kewaunee Co.||Kewaunee||Aug ??, 1940||Ziemer (1948)|
|North Dakota||Cass Co.||Fargo||Aug ??, 1957||Male, NDSU|
Sept 05, 1906
|Illinois||Marshall Co.||Lacon||Sept 05, 1930||INHS|
|Michigan||Oakland Co.||Sept 06, ????||Moore (1955)|
|Ontario||Middlesex Co.||London||Sept 08, 2004||Univ. of Western Ont.|
|North Dakota||Cass Co.||Fargo||Sept 8-12, 1997||Female|
|Massachusetts||Norfolk Co.||Holbrook||Sept 09, 1923||Farquhar 1934|
|Massachusetts||Dukes Co.||Martha's Vineyard (nr. Chilmark)||Sept 10, 1941||Jones & Kimball, 1943|
|Arkansas||Washington Co.||Sept 12, 1964||UAAM|
||St Cloud State University, St. Cloud
||Saint John's University|
|Illinois||Peoria Co.||West Lamarsh Creek||Sept 16, 2001||LepSoc-SS|
||Sept 19, 1906||Petch, 1939|
|Texas||Hays||San Marcos||Sept 19, 2011||BugGuide|
|Wisconsin||Bayfield Co.||N. Great Lakes Visitor Center, nr. Ashland||Sept 21, 1999||LepSoc-SS, link to pic|
|Sept 24, 1944||CNC|
|Texas||Harris||Clear Lake City||Sept 24, 2011||Fide David Kent|
|Texas||Bexar Co.||San Antonio||Sept 26, 2003||Photo|
|Illinois||Rock Island Co.||Rock Island||Sept 28, 1945||INHS|
|Ohio||Seneca Co.||Sept 30, 1890||Ohio Lepidopterists|
|Wisconsin||Kewaunee Co.||Kewaunee||Sept ??, 1942||Ziemer (1948)|
|Wisconsin||Kewaunee Co.||Kewaunee||Sept ??, 1945||Ziemer (1948)|
|Louisiana||Sept ??, 19??||Brou, 2003|
|Ohio||Cuyahoga Co.||Oct 01, 1953||Ohio Lepidopterists|
|Michigan||Midland Co.||Oct 02, ????||Moore (1955)|
|Arkansas||Washington Co.||Fayetteville vicinity||Oct 02, 1964||UAAM|
|Quebec||Quebec City||Oct 04, 1938||Handfield (1999)|
|Texas||Nueces Co.||Corpus Christi||Oct 04, 2001||LepSoc-SS|
|Texas||Kenedy Co.||King Ranch||Oct 06, 1995||LepSoc-SS|
|South Carolina||Pickens Co.||Clemson||Oct 08, 1961||Clemson (CUAC)|
|Texas||Starr Co.||Halcon Heights||Oct. 08, 2011||Photos sb:MAQ|
|Tennessee||Sevier Co.||Gatlinburg, nr. Great Smoky Mountains NP||Oct 09, 1951||GSMNP Coll.|
|Ohio||Crawford Co.||Oct 13, 1951||Ohio Lepidopterists|
||San Patricia Co.
||2 mi. NE Aransas Pass
||Oct 18, 2011
||Photo (sb MAQ)
|Texas||Gregg Co.||Longview||Oct 19, 1976||LepSoc-SS|
|Texas||Galveston Co.||Galveston||Oct 21, 1971||W.W. McGuire|
|Texas||Willacy Co.||So. Padre Island||Oct 25, 2001||(sight)|
||Montopolis Rd., Austin
||Oct 27, 2011
||Photo (sb MAQ)
|Texas||Nueces Co.||Corpus Christi||Oct 29, 2001||LepSoc-SS|
|Texas||Cameron Co.||Brownsville||Oct 30, 2004||Specimen, pic(sb:MAQ)|
|Aransas||Washington Co.||Fayetteville vicinity||Oct 31, 1970||UAAM|
|Texas||Calhoun Co.||Port O'Connor||Nov 11, 2005||fresh male, at bait, Photo|
|Texas||Starr Co.||Falcon Heights||Nov 08, 2011
|Texas||Starr Co.||Roma||Nov 18, 1995||LepSoc-SS|
|Louisiana||Nov ??, ????||Brou, 2003|
|Texas||Erath Co.||Stephenville||Dec ??, 19??||TAMU|
|Iowa||Scott Co.||Davenport (Earliest Record)||None stated||Grote (1875)|
|Nova Scocia||Dartmouth (Eastern-most Record)||1944||Neil (1979)|
* (sb: MAQ) = Photograph seen by Mike A. Quinn
|Fabaceae - Legume or Pea Family|
|Senna bicapsularis (L.) Roxb.||Janzen & Hallwachs (1999)|
|Cassia ferruginea (Schrader) Schrader ex DC.||Robinson et al. (2002)|
|Cassia fistulosa L. ex Long & Lakela||Robinson et al. (2002), Specht et al. (2004)|
|Cassia imperialis Hort.||Specht et al. (2004)|
Owl Moth - Thysania zenobia (Cramer, 1777)
T. zenobia is not referred to as the "Owl Moth" due to a resemblance to a nocturnal bird of prey, rather it gained this name due to being one of the largest members of the Owlet Moth Family, Noctuidae. "Owlet" being a diminutive form of "Owl" which is an inappropriate moniker for such a grand moth.
Thysanus - Greek for a fringe
Zeno is the common aglicized form of the Greek name Zenon (Ζηνων), derived from the theonym Zeus.
Pieter Cramer (May 21, 1721 - September 26, 1776 or 1779) was a wealthy Dutch wool merchant and entomologist.
Please report additional records to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please include date, location (distance to nearest town) & county of record.
If possible, send a photo, medium resolution preferred. Thanks, Mike
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Distler, D.A. 1989. Rare Occurrence of the Owl Moth, Thysania zenobia (Cramer) Noctuidae, in Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 92(3-4): 209.
Dyar, H.G. 1902. A list of North American Lepidoptera and key to the literature of this order of insects. Bulletin of the United States National Museum, No. 52, xix + 705 pp.
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Hooper, R.R. 1990. Check-list of the moths of Saskatchewan. Part 5: Arches Moths, Similar-wings, Grass Moths and Underwings (Catocalinae). Blue Jay 48: 79-83.
Janzen, D. H. and Hallwachs, W. 1999. Philosophy, navigation and use of a dynamic database ("ACG Caterpillars SRNP") for an inventory of the macrocaterpillar fauna, and its food plants and parasitoids, of the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste (ACG), northwestern Costa Rica (http://janzen.sas.upenn.edu).
Jones, F.M., and C.P. Kimball. 1943. The Lepidoptera of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. Publ. Nantucket Maria Mitchell Assoc. 4: 1-217.
Kimball C.P. 1965. The Lepidoptera of Florida; an annotated checklist. Arthropods of Florida and Neighboring Land Areas Vol. 1. Florida Department of Agriculture, Division of Plant Industry. 363 pp.
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Petch, C.E. 1939. General Index to the Thirty-Eight Annual Reports of the Entomological Society of Ontario 1900-1937. Ontario Department of Agriculture, Toronto, Ontario. 267 pp.
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1959. Possible migration tendencies of Erebus
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Society 13: 65-66.
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Ziemer, S.E. 1948. Erebus odora & Thysania zenobia in Wisconsin. Pp. 34 in: Remington, C.L. & J.E. Remington (editors). The Lepidopterists' News, 2(3):25-36.