Saturday, May 26, 2012


Hiking along the Sandusky River near Fremont, Ohio, hundreds of small butterfly or moth species would flitter out of the bushes as I pushed my way through them. One, the Canadian Petrophila moth, perched upon a flower and allowed me to take a close-up shot (above photo). Its larvae live inside underwater silk nests, which it spins on top of rocks in the Sandusky River. And, the adults flock to nearby vegetation bordering the river. The larvae live inside underwater retreats (sheets of spun silk) on top of rocks in the often swift-flowing Sandusky River and the adults find shelter in the nearby riparian vegetation during the day. They live from May to September, producing two broods.

I wonder how much of a food source the larvae is to trout and other creatures inhabiting our streams and rivers. The aquatic larvae feed preferentially on diatoms that become trapped in their silk sheets, and also scrape algae from the rocks. Two generations of larvae grow each year and the adults over winter. 
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The adults, as you can see in the photos I took, have a triangular arrangement of 3 black spots on the forewing. Petrophila canadensis is fairly small, with a forewing length of 5.5 to 9 mm. The forewing is whitish, with bands and lines of grayish brown, brown and orange-brown. The basal area is brownish. Aquatic Lepidoptera are amazing and are only recently beginning to be studied more intensely. The distribution of aquatic Lepidoptera in Michigan is limited, but the Aquatic Lepidoptera of Michigan is a project in just beginning.

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