In Mint Condition
if you're growing plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae--you know, the plants with the square stalks and opposite leaves--you may see a very tiny reddish-orange visitor.
It's so tiny that it's smaller than the leaf of a catmint (Nepeta). Its wing span is probably about 10 to 15 millimeters.
This little critter (below) is a California Pyrausta Moth (Pyrausta californicalis), as identified by butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis. Pyrausta is a genus of moths in the Crambidae family.
We spotted this one Saturday morning in our yard, foraging in the catmint. This is one moth you'll see during the day!
"Pyrausta californicalis is a native feeder in the mint family, which is often quite common on cultivated exotic mints, including spearmint, peppermint, etc.," Shapiro said.
In fact, Shapiro found the mint moth in his own garden in Davis for two decades "until I took the spearmint out."
And, it occurs on introduced mint in his Gates Canyon study site near Vacaville, Calif.
What's behind the catmint leaf (Nepeta)? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is a California Pyrausta Moth (Pyrausta californicalis) on catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of California Pyrausta Moth (Pyrausta californicalis) on catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)