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Lichen Moth



Photo © by Mike Plagens

Observed taking nectar from flowers of Desert Lavender (Hyptis emoryi) near Bumble Bee, Yavapai Co., Arizona, USA. May 2008.

Arctiidae -- Tiger Moth Family

Several genera of lichen moths (Lithosiinae) can be found in the Sonoran Desert mostly adjacent to the moutain ranges. As larvae they feed on various kinds of lichens (algae-fungal symbionts). These organisms often contain colorful pigments (source of litmus color) as well as toxic compounds. Like many other members of the tiger moth family (Arctiidae) these moths use bright coloration to warn predators of toxic compounds sequestered within their bodies. Because of this protection they are easily observable when taking nectar at flowers and are slow to escape and more-or-less oblivious to predatory dangers. They are small, rarely more than 2cm wingspan. Cisthene is one of the more common and conspicuous genera with several similar species.

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