Butterflies & Moths of the Adirondacks:
Virginia Ctenucha (Ctenucha virginica)

Moths of the Adirondack Park: Virginia Ctenucha at the Paul Smiths VIC Native Species Butterfly House (18 July 2013).
Moths of the Adirondacks: The Virginia Ctenucha lives in woodlands, fields, gardens, and wetlands in northeastern North America. They are usually seen in the Adirondack Park in July. Virginia Ctenucha at the Paul Smiths VIC Native Species Butterfly House (18 July 2013).

The Virginia Ctenucha (Ctenucha virginica) is an attractive moth that may be seen in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York and in the Paul Smiths VIC Butterfly House in mid-summer. It is widespread and common. [1] The Virginia Ctenucha is a member of the Erebidae family. [2] This family consists of a varied group of striking moths living in woodlands, fields, and gardens,[3] as well as freshwater swamps, marshes, and bogs. [4]

The Virginia Ctenucha is the largest and most broad-winged of wasp moths in North America. [5] Its wingspan is 1 3/8 to 2". [6] This moth has a metallic blue body, which contrasts with the bright orange of its head and the sides of its collar. [7] Its fore wing is a deep grayish brown, with some metallic blue at base. Its hind-wing is black. As can be seen from the photo, the fringes on all the wings are partly white. [8]

The adult Virginia Ctenucha flies primarily during the day, but may also come to light at night. [9] Adults feed on nectar at various flowers, such as goldenrod. [10] The larva body surface is black, covered with tufts of cream-colored or black hairs. [11] Caterpillar hosts include grasses, sedges, and irises. [12]

Despite its name, this is a northern moth. [13] The range of the Virginia Ctenucha includes much of northeastern North America, from Labrador to Pennsylvania, west to Manitoba and Kansas. [14] The flight period for the Virginia Ctenucha throughout its range is from late spring to late summer. [15] [16] [17] The larva can usually be seen from April to September, but may be found any time of year, since they overwinter. [18]

The flight period for this moth in the Adirondack Park has not been documented. However, sighting records suggest that it flies in July.

  • In 2012, Virginia Ctenucha moths were observed near Tupper Lake in Franklin County in early July 2012 and in Essex County in late July 2012. [19] This moth was present in the Paul Smiths VIC Native Species Butterfly House fairly consistently from 21 June through 27 July. [20]
  • In 2013, this moth was present in the Butterfly House in late July. [21]
  • In 2014, the Virginia Ctenucha was present in the Butterfly House in mid-July. [22]


  • Susan Grimm Hanley. Interpretive Naturalist, Paul Smith's College Native Species Butterfly House. Species Logbooks.
  • Butterflies and Moths of North American. Species Profiles. Sighting records: 7/4/2012; 7/27/2012; 7/18/2013; 7/22/2013; 7/19/2014; 7/19/2014; 7/24/2014.
  • Iowa State University. Department of Entomology. BugGuide.
  • Insect Images. Virginia Ctenucha.
  • Discover Life. Virginia Ctenucha.
  • Mississippi State University. Mississippi Entomological Museum. North American Photographers Group. Ctenucha virginica.
  • University of Alberta. Department of Biological Sciences. E.H. Strickland Entomological Museum. Ctenucha virginica.
  • ENature. Field Guides.
  • Charles V. Covell, Jr. A Field Guide to the Moths of Eastern North America (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1984), p. 75, Plate 12.
  • David Beadle and Seabrooke Leckie. Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2012), pp. 308-309.
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