New York Natural Heritage Program
Pitcher Plant Borer Moth
Papaipema appassionata (Harvey, 1876)

Identifying Characteristics [-]
The pitcher plant borer moth is mostly reddish brown, straw yellow, and white. The top of the head and thorax is reddish brown, as is the base and outer third of the forewing. The rear half of the center of the forewing is straw yellow and marked with reddish-brown lines. The orbicular and reniform spots are very large and white and are also marked with fine reddish-brown lines. The hind wing has a pale yellow tinge with a light sprinkling of reddish-brown scales toward the outer margin (Covell 1984; Brou 2005). The wingspan is approximately 30-41 mm (Covell 1984). Frass of larvae is orange (Hessel 1954; Wagner et al. 2008). The early instars (stages) of many larvae in the genus Papaipema are colorful, with rings or whitish stripes on a maroon, pink, purple, or brown body. Later instars become whiter (Wagner et al. 2008). The species is most easily identified as an adult moth (Wagner et al. 2008; NatureServe 2010), and its identification should be confirmed by an expert if based on a photograph or sign other than an adult specimen (NatureServe 2010).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification [-]
The adult is the best life stage for identification (Wagner et al. 2008; NatureServe 2010).

Behavior [-]
In the Northeast, pitcher plant borer moths fly from late August-September (Covell 1984; Wagner et al. 2008). In New York State, they have been documented to fly in mid-September. Typically, they tend to fly within 10 m of pitcher plant patches (NatureServe 2010). However, although they usually do not fly far from pitcher plant patches, females seem to disperse more than males, particularly after laying their eggs. Females have been documented more than 2 km from suitable larval habitat containing pitcher plants (NatureServe 2010). Females lay their eggs on and near pitcher plants (Sarracenia spp.), the larval host plants (Wagner et al. 2008). Larvae burrow into the roots of pitcher plants and push orange frass out of the tunnel where it collects around and beneath the tunnel entrance. Larvae pupate in the tunnel or in soil near the host plant and emerge as adults late the next season (Wagner et al. 2008).

Diet [-]
The larvae bore in the roots of pitcher plants (Sarracenia spp.) (Wagner et al. 2008).
Pitcher Plant Borer Moth Images
click to enlarge
The Best Time to See
The best time to see the pitcher plant borer moth is during its flight season. In the Northeast, the moths generally fly from late August-September and sometimes into October (Covell 1984; Wagner et al. 2008). In New York State, the moth has been documented to fly in mid-September.
Present Reproducing
The time of year you would expect to find Pitcher Plant Borer Moth present (blue shading) and reproducing (orange shading) in New York.