Morning-Glory Prominent

Schizura ipomoeae

morning-glory_prominent_2009.jpg

Photo of a Morning-Glory Prominent moth
The morning-glory prominent is common but easily overlooked in Missouri’s woods. The caterpillars mimic curled, dead edges on the leaves they feed on, and the adults blend in with tree bark.
Donna Brunet
Family

Notodontidae (prominent moths)

Description

Forewings of adult morning-glory prominents are drab grays, tans, and browns, with small black markings that vary considerably. The hindwings are whitish in males, dark gray in females. At rest, this moth typically folds its wings like a roof over its back. Sometimes the leading edges of the forewings are curled around beneath the abdomen, narrowing the profile, so the moth looks like a twig. The legs look hairy, and a heavy covering of scales on the wings makes them look fuzzy.

Larvae are tan with brown markings, with a green band on the second and third segments behind the head. The body is humped on the fifth abdominal segment (that is, the segment bearing the third of the four back pairs of legs).

North of Mexico, there are 8 species in the genus Schizura.

Size

Wingspan: 1¼–2 inches.

Habitat and conservation

Look for this species in the woods and nearby areas. A nocturnal moth, it is attracted to lights. When the caterpillars rest along the jagged margin of a leaf they’re eating, they look like a curled up, dried portion of the leaf edge. The adults are also perfectly camouflaged when they rest on the bark of trees. So why is it called a “prominent”? It’s for the tuft of hair that sticks up over the thorax, between the back edges of the forewings, when the moth is at rest.

Foods

Larvae have been known to feed on morning glories (hence the name) as well as the leaves of several types of woody plants, including birches, elms, maples, oaks, and roses.

image of Morning Glory Prominent Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Life cycle

Adults fly from April or May to September. Caterpillars pupate below ground or in ground litter.

Human connections

When the caterpillars chew the leaves of garden plants and landscaping trees, they can become pests. But compared to some other moth larvae, this species is hardly devastating.

Ecosystem connections

The caterpillars are herbivores that graze on vegetation. This species is apparently relished by many predators (such as birds) that hunt by sight — we can deduce this by the remarkably convincing camouflage of both larvae and adults.