Basilodes pepita
Gold moth

Key Characteristics

The Gold moth is a medium-sized moth with a wingspan of 1.4-1.8 inches (3.5-4.5 cm). The forewings (i.e., upper wings) are pale metallic gold in color with thin brownish lines and spots. The forewings also have brownish shading in the basal areas near the thorax and base of the forewings and along the outer margins. The forewings also have two spots near the top of each forewing, an inner, round or orbicular spot and an outer, kidney-shaped or reniform spot. The hind wings are grayish brown or pale brown and slightly darker than the forewings. [See plate 27 no.18 in Covell 1984 for image of the Gold moth.]

Status and Rank

  • State Status: SC
  • State Rank: S1S2
  • Global Rank: G4


County NameNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Distribution map for Basilodes pepita

Updated 5/15/2018. Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


The Gold moth is extremely rare, known from only a single location in Michigan. Little is known about the life history and ecology of this species. In Michigan, this species is associated with lowland hardwoods, swamps, and floodplain forests. The larval host plant is wing-stem, Verbesina alternifolia. This plant occurs along river banks, in riverbottom floodplain swamps, and in fens and thickets. The brightly colored larva of this species is a nocturnal feeder on the flower head of its host plant. By day, the larva hides in litter at the base of the host plant.

Specific Habitat Needs

Host plant needed in Southern hardwood swamp, Floodplain forest

Natural Community Types


For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.


The Gold moth is extremely rare, known from only a single location in Michigan. This species is considered imperiled or critically imperiled but little is known about the status, distribution, life history and ecology of this species. Due to lack of scientific knowledge about this species, the specific threats facing this species also are largely unknown. At a minimum, the one site from which this species is known should be protected and maintained, including maintaining a healthy or viable population of the host plant, Verbesina alternifolia or wing-stem. Surveys are needed to assess this species' abundance and distribution. Studies to investigate this species' life history and ecology and identify and assess threats to the species also are warranted.

Active Period

Flight from fourth week of July to third week of August

Survey Methods

The best way to survey for this species is by blacklighting, a technique where a sheet is stretched across two trees or poles and an ultraviolet light is used to attract moths to the sheet. Moths can be collected directly from the sheet. Insects come to light usually in largest numbers on still, dark, cloudy nights when both temperature and humidity are high, and in smallest numbers when on cool, windy, moonlit nights, though almost any night may be good. Adults have been seen flying in Michigan from late July through mid-August although the flight period may extend through August and perhaps even into September. Adults also have been captured at flowers of its host plant and in bait traps. Visual surveys or searches for larvae also can be conducted. Larvae are present and can be surveyed from mid-August through September. The Gold moth has one generation per year and probably overwinters as a pupa. Larvae (and adults) can be found in the flower heads of its host plant, Verbesina alternifolia or wing-stem. The litter at the base of the host plants also can be searched for larvae of this species since this is where the larvae hide during the day. It is strongly recommended that observations of adults and larvae of this species be verified or documented through positively identified photographs, actual specimen vouchers or verification by a species expert.

Page Citation

Michigan Natural Features Inventory. 2007. Rare Species Explorer (Web Application). Available online at [Accessed Sep 23, 2018]


Survey References

Technical References

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