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by Valerie

March, 2015

Grapevine Epimenis

grapevine epimenis

Very few moths and butterflies fly in late February to early March, but the grapevine epimenis (Psychomorpha epimenis) is one of the most ubiquitous in that period and can often be found on the earliest blooming shrubs: spring herald (or elbowbush) and Mexican plum. The epimenis is a small, diurnal (daytime flying) moth in the family Noctuidae. As the name implies, the caterpillar host plant is grape, and the tiny moths can often be seen fluttering rapidly around thick tangles of mustang grape stems. The moths emerge from their pupae and fly before the vines leaf out. They mate and lay eggs on the bare vines so that the appearance of the tender young leaves coincides with the caterpillars' hatching. As the larvae grow, they fold a leaf over and seal it with silk, creating a secure retreat in which they hide during the day. These retreats are fairly easy to spot if you know what to look for; when opened, they reveal a black and white banded caterpillar with orange head and tail. Once the caterpillars finish feeding and pupate, early April here in central Texas, they will not be seen again until the following year.

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