Plants and Animals

Photedes inops Spartina moth

Key Characteristics

The spartina moth has an average wingspan of 1 inch (2.5 cm). The forewing (i.e., upper wings) are light, dull, slightly reddish ochreous (i.e., yellow or reddish brown) with fine, blackish, single lines comprised of a series of blackish scales and rarely complete. The orbicular spot (i.e., inner round spot closest to base of forewing or thorax near top of wing) is small. The hind wings (i.e., lower wings) are cream-colored with very faint lines.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G3G4 - Rank is uncertain, ranging from vulnerable to apparently secure
State Rank: S2S3 - Rank is uncertain, ranging from imperiled to vulnerable


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Barry 1 1997
Berrien 1 1986
Cass 2 1987
Newaygo 1 1989

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 Spartina moth is associated with salt marshes on the Atlantic coast and wet prairie/fen habitats in the Midwest. The species also is associated with inland emergent wetlands. The larvae host plant is prairie cord-grass (Spartina pectinata).

Specific Habitat Needs

Host plant needed in: Prairie fenSouthern wet meadowWet prairieWet-mesic sand prairie.

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.

Management Recommendations

Research to obtain more information on this species' life history and ecology and to assess threats to this species also is warranted. The sites at which this species has been documented should be protected and maintained. Adequate and suitable habitat at these sites need to be maintained including sufficient densities of the species' host plants. Maintenance and long-term preservation of the habitats with which this species is associated could include maintaining or restoring hydrologic regimes, controlling invasive species, and using management tools such as tree girdling and prescribed fire in some systems to restore natural disturbance regimes and ecological processes that help maintain these systems. Protection and recovery efforts for this species need to address declines in the host plant, prairie cord-grass (Spartina pectinata). Displacement of host plant populations due to invasion by Phragmites is a significant risk to the species. Prescribed fire is an important management tool but care should be take to ensure that occupied areas are only partially burned. This species also has undergone drastic population declines in the east due to mosquito spraying. Mosquito spraying should be minimized or avoided in areas with known populations of this species.

Active Period

Flight from first week of September to fourth week of September

Survey Methods

Adults of this species can be found in September through October although in Michigan, adults have primarily been documented in September. The best way to survey for this species is by blacklighting at night during the adult flight period, a technique whereby 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. Reports of this species should be documented with a voucher specimen and verification by a species expert.


Survey Period: From first week of September to fourth week of September

Time of Day: Night
Humidity: Humid
Cloud Cover: Overcast
Air Temperature: Warm
Wind: No Wind
Survey Method Comment: Ideal survey conditions but surveys can be conducted during other conditions as well.


Survey References

  • Covell, Charles. A Field Guide to the Moths of Eastern North America. Peterson Field Guide Series, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA. 496 pp.
  • Martin, J.E.H. 1977. The Insects and Arachnids of Canada (Part 1): Collecting, preparing, and preserving insects, mites, and spiders. Publication 1643. Biosystematics Research Institute, Ottawa.

Technical References

  • Forbes, W.T.M. 1954. Lepidoptera of New York and Neighboring States, Noctuidae, Part III. Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, NY. 433 pp.
  • Kost, M.A. 2001. Natural community abstract for southern wet meadow. Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Lansing, MI. 5 pp.
  • Spieles, J.B., P.J. Comer, D.A. Albert, and M.A. Kost. 1999. Natural community abstract for prairie fen. Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Lansing, MI. 4 pp.
  • Stehr, F. W. 1997. Michigan Lepidoptera Survey Sites and Seasonal Occurrence of Michigan's Listed Species Annual Report 1997. 30 pp.+ MI Lepidoptera Survey Data Collection Form