White and Black Moth (Rheumaptera sp)

I was a little surprised (and a touch excited) to see this striking, boldly patterned black and white moth fly in front of me and land on some dirt in my yard the other evening as I headed out. I grabbed a container and was able to catch it. Last year was the first time I had seen one of these White and Black Moths, but the first ones weren’t until later in the year. They seem to be day fliers, and given the general lack of butterflies and day-flying moths, they seem pretty conspicuous to me, and I’m not sure why they were apparently so scarce prior to last year (when I saw quite a few).

There is a pair of species (Rheumaptera subhastata and Rheumaptera subhastata) that are essentially impossible to tell apart on the basis of the patterns on their wings. The problem is that there is as much variability within each species as there is between them. Identification to species requires looking at the genitalia (or presumably genetic samples would work as well). That being the case, I’ll be happy calling them Rheumaptera sp. and knowing it’s one of the two.

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