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Spotting the First Moths of Spring in Manitoba

Early Moths - The Scarce Infant and The Infant

The Scarce Infant (Leucobrephos brephoides) is considered rare throughout its entire range (Yukon to Labrador, south to New York and southern Alberta).  The Scarce Infant is a small, hairy, diurnal moth, with dusky grey forewings with a white subterminal band and mostly white hindwings, which are heavily bordered with dark grey or black. 

The larva feeds on aspen, birch and alder.  The mature larva (fifth instar, or molt), digs into the earth where it pupates.  In Manitoba, emergence of the adult can be as early as the middle of March if conditions are favourable, when there may yet be a fair amount of snow cover on the ground.  The Scarce Infant can be found as late as mid-May.

Not unlike a butterfly, it spends a considerable amount of time in the early morning imbibing moisture and minerals from sandy roads or trails with its short proboscis.  As air temperature rises, the moth becomes increasingly active.  When fully warm, the Scarce Infant will fly up to 12ft or more in the air, in a quick and fluttery flight.  They will rest on the ground or on twigs now and then but are easily disturbed.  They will at times land on the observer as well!

I have visited one population in Sandilands Provincial Forest on several occasions, and have recorded the maximum number of eleven individuals on any one visit.  On almost all occasions, I have found the Scarce Infant accompanied by another early-season day-flying moth – The Infant (Archiearis infans).

The Infant is commonly encountered from Alaska to Newfoundland, south to New York and Oregon. The forewings are a warm brown with a whitish median band and a white subapical patch.  The hindwings have large orange patches.  When at rest with wings spread or while in flight, this moth can easily be mistaken for a butterfly.

Birch, willow, alder and poplar are listed as its larval hosts.  The larvae overwinter as pupae, with the adult found any time from March to May.  Like the Scarce Infant, it too will mud puddle on damp roads.  The flight of the Infant is swift.

Keep your eyes peeled the next time you're in a forest from March through May....you too may get the chance to observe these harbingers of Spring!

photos and text by: Deanna Dodgson