Moth Species New to Missouri Found on Prairie

July 20, 2023 | News

On June 1, 2019, MPF held its annual Prairie BioBlitz on the 400-acre original prairie in Benton County owned by Dr. Wayne Morton, a former MPF board president. In the evening, lepidopterist Phil Koenig led a nocturnal insect session, using a blacklight to attract nocturnal insects.

Among the specimens collected was a moth that was not known from Missouri. It belongs to the genus Sympistis, but it could not be identified to species because two species in that genus are morphologically identical. The specimen either had to be dissected or DNA sequenced.

Dr. David Wagner at the University of Connecticut, an expert on caterpillars, kindly included a leg of the specimen with a batch of his specimens to be sequenced by BOLD Systems (Barcode of Life Data System) in Ontario. He received the results on June 24, 2023. The new species for Missouri is Sympistis dinalda. This species is represented on iNaturalist with five or six records from Missouri, but any associated photographs cannot be identified with certainty.

While Sympistis dinalda is not a prairie specialist, it definitely uses prairies, and its discovery underscores the importance of natural history educational events like MPF’s annual Prairie BioBlitz.

Photo of Sympistis dinalda collected at MPF’s Benton County Prairie by Phil Koenig.

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