Spiderling Plume Moth

Oh, how I love these little guys! This plume moth looks almost completely different from the other plume moth I recently posted — the ends of the forewings, the little poofs on the joints of the hind legs, the pattern on the abdomen — and yet they are both plume moths in the family Pterophoridae.

Alas for my imagination, “spiderling” does not refer to the moth in any way; it refers to the plants it prefers to eat. The spiderling plume moth likes plants in the four o’clock family, especially scarlet spiderling (Boerhavia coccinea) and red spiderling (Boerhavia diffusa). In Florida they also eat burrowing four o’clock (Okenia hypogaea).

For those who don’t know (because I certainly didn’t), four o’clock plants have flowers that open in the late afternoon, around four o’clock (aha). They are flowering perennials common in gardens and yards, with a variety of brightly colored, often trumpet-shaped flowers. Four o’clocks you might find in a garden are from the Mirabilis family; the “spiderlings” from Boerhavia actually look more like ground cover, with clover-like leaves and only tiny flowers. Spiderling plants can crowd out other plants and are commonly considered a weed; they are also edible and are sometimes taken as medicine or treated as a green vegetable.

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