New York Natural Heritage Program
Marsh Fern Moth
Fagitana littera (Guenée, 1852)
Insects

General Description [-]
See any published illustrataion such as Handfield (1999), Rockburne and Lafontaine (1976). There are no similar species in North America.

Characters Most Useful for Identification [-]
See any illustration for the adult which is unmistakable [such as Handfield (1999) or Rings et al. (1992)]. Possibly a few experts could identity the larva based on Latham (1953), but suspected larvae should be reared to adults to confirm the species.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification [-]
The adult is best for identification purposes.

Behavior [-]
The adults are nocturnal. The fact they are not collected commonly anywhere suggests that, like many Noctuidae, they do not come readily to lights. However, there is no other known method to find them. The larvae apparently remain on the ferns at all times.

Diet [-]
The only documented foodplant is Marsh Fern (Thelypteris palustris), but at least south of New York few habitats have that fern. It is not certain which other ferns are used, but Dale Schweitzer (NatureServe) suspects that Virginia Chain Fern (Woodwardia virginica) is the usual foodplant in New Jersey.
Marsh Fern Moth Images
click to enlarge
The Best Time to See
Based on collection dates in Ohio, Wisconsin, and New England the expected flight season in New York would be most of June into early July with the larvae occurring after the adults. A field collected larva pupated 4 July, suggesting the larval stage takes less than a month, and a moth emerged on 26 July (Latham 1953). Collection dates for specimens from Orient, Long Island were 4 June to 12 July for 20 specimens (Latham 1953), which is very comparable to recent literature. There may be a partial second brood in New Jersey (in July) and southward, but probably not in New York, although Latham (1953) states "published records into September". While Latham thought that the eggs might overwinter, it is much more likely that pupae do instead.
J F M A M J J A S O N D
Reproducing Larvae present and active Pupae or prepupae present
The time of year you would expect to find Marsh Fern Moth reproducing (blue shading), larvae present and active (green shading) and pupae or prepupae present (orange shading) in New York.