People passionate about nature

Flower moths of conservation concern in Manitoba

I (he/him) am an Independent Researcher focusing on Lepidopterans-at-risk including Poweshiek skipperling (Oarisma poweshiek) and Mottled duskywing (Erynnis martialis). I collaborate with local and international communities; independent researchers; specialists in academia; non-profits; and multiple levels of government to try to recover species and ecosystems.; Winnipeg, MB, Canada.

Within the Lepidoptera – butterflies and moths – there is a group of moths known as “flower moths” in the genus Schinia. These moths often lay eggs on flowers of their host plant before hatched caterpillars feed on these flowers or seeds (Hardwick 1996). Most species require one year to complete their life cycle. Once a caterpillar has developed enough, it moves to the soil to pupate – the stage before it turns into an adult moth. Adults are often observed resting on flowerheads during the day (Hardwick 1996; COSEWIC 2016). Their wing patterns help them to blend in to flowers where they rest. 

Seventeen species of Schinia have been reported from Manitoba (Pohl et al. 2018); little is known about each. A few species have received more attention and are also of conservation concern. The Gold-edged gem and the White flower moth have been assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada as endangered (COSEWIC 2014; COSEWIC 2016), while Verna’s flower moth has been assessed as threatened (COSEWIC 2017). Statuses rank in severity from: extinct, extirpated (gone from a specific region), endangered, threatened, special concern to not at risk (data deficient is a status off of the scale). I am currently assessing the status of the Leadplant flower moth. I will briefly discuss each moth and actions that we can take to help!

Gold-edged gem (S. avemensis) ; Left - Adult Gold-edged gem on a sunflower (Helianthus sp.). Its colouration resembles the inner circle of the flowerhead. Right - Gold-edged gem live in habitats that look like.

The Gold-edged gem is mostly brown, with yellow-beige stripes midway and at the end of the forewings (front pair of wings) and speckled with black. They fly during the day and are found resting on sunflowers (COSEWIC 2006; COSEWIC 2016). As caterpillars, they likely eat sunflowers (Hardwick 1996; COSEWIC 2016). Gold-edged gem live in sandy habitats similar to the area imaged above. 

White flower moth (S. bimatris) ; White flower moth on a finger. It may be sucking up salts from the finger by using its proboscis.

The almost completely white forewings combined with an orange-yellow underside distinguish the White flower moth from visually similar species (Harvey 1875; COSEWIC 2014). Images or drawings of eggs or caterpillars have not been reported yet. White flower moths live in similar sand-type habitats as the Gold-edged gem (COSEWIC 2014). Feeling the heat radiating from the sand while hiking helps to imagine these moths flying across the dunes.

Verna’s flower moth (S. verna) 

The base colours of brown on the forewings and black on the hindwings of Verna’s flower moth boldly contrast with the white splotches across. Caterpillars eat the flowers of pussytoes (Antennaria spp.) – their host plant (Hardwick 1996). I have generally observed pussytoes in grassy areas where the vegetation is relatively short. In addition to the larval host, the moths also likely need nectar sources for adults and adequate disturbances to the habitat to live at any particular location (COSEWIC 2017).

Leadplant flower moth (S. lucens) ; Left - Leadplant flower moth resting on a flowerhead of leadplant. Here, the moth is most visually similar to the unopened flowers on the far left. Right – A caterpillar or larva of Leadplant flower moth. The colour pattern on its body matches the seeds and triangular plant parts of the flower spike.

Leadplant flower moths are striped with pink-red and white lines on their forewings, with a yellow ellipse surrounded by black on their hindwings (Hardwick 1996). They are approximately the size of the last segment of your thumb. Larval patterning ranges from banded, maroon arrows on each segment to white lines running the length of the body (iNaturalist 2022). They eat plants in the Amorpha genus (Hardwick 1996): leadplants (A. canescens) live in upland prairie communities, dwarf indigos (A. nana) in wetter prairies and false indigo (A. fruticosa) along riverbanks (Looman and Best 1987).

Stewardship and actions

Sand dunes that are actively moving are preferred by Gold-edged gem compared to ones where overwhelming growth of vegetation has stabilised the dune (Hugenholtz et al. 2010; COSEWIC 2016). Disturbing the landscape with focused grazing and fires, and learning about the influence of climate change, will likely maintain high-quality habitat. Similar conservation disturbances will likely maintain habitat for prairie (COSEWIC 2017) and riparian habitats. 

Learning more about the biology and habitat requirements of these moths may help to ensure their presence in the future. If you see one, then delicately photographing the moth and reporting your observation to the Manitoba Conservation Data Centre or to a specialist would be helpful! Bringing children to learn about these sensitive relationships can instill an appreciation for these moths. Briefly mentioning your interest in conservation in any social gathering can gently encourage people to explore their own values. Voting ensures that your voice is heard! Maybe next summer, you will be fortunate enough to see some of these moths living in their habitats. 

Written and photos supplied by Justis Henault. 


COSEWIC. 2006. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Gold-edged Gem Schinia avemensis in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. vi + 26 pp. Available from (accessed 14 December 2022).

COSEWIC. 2014. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the White Flower Moth Schinia bimatris in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. xi + 43 pp. Available from (accessed 23 November 2022).

COSEWIC. 2016. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Gold-edged Gem Schinia avemensis in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. xi + 49 pp. Available from (accessed 23 November 2022).

COSEWIC. 2017. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Verna’s Flower Moth Schinia verna in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. x + 42 pp. Available from (accessed 23 November 2022).

Hardwick, D.F. 1996. A monograph to the North american Heliothentinae (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Centre for Land and Biological Resources Research, Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Harvey, L.F., 1875. On Texan Lepidoptera collected by Mr. Belfrage. Bulletin of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, 3:3-16.

Hugenholtz, C.H., Bender, D., and Wolfe, S.A. 2010. Declining sand dune activity in the southern Canadian prairies: Historical context, controls and ecosystem implications. Aeolian Research, 2:71–82.

iNaturalist. 2022. Observations: Leadplant flower moth. Available from (accessed 13 December 2022).

Looman, J. and Best, K.F. 1987. Budd’s flora of the Canadian prairie provinces. Research Branch, Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. ISBN:: 9780660125244. Available from (accessed 14 February 2021).

Pohl, G.R., Landry, J.-F., Schmidt, B.C., Lafontaine, J.D., Troubridge, J.T., Macaulay, A.D., van Nieukerken, E.J., DeWaard, J.R., Dombroskie, J.J., Klymko, J., Nazari, V. and Stead, K. 2018. Annotated checklist of the moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera) of Canada and Alaska. Pensoft Publishers, Bulgaria. Available from (accessed 9 June 2021).