Plants and Animals

Papaipema cerina Golden borer

Key Characteristics

The Golden borer moth has an average wingspan of 2 inches (5.0 cm). The forewings (i.e., upper wings) are lemon yellow in color, and the lines on the forewings are rather weak and somewhat spotty. The outer third of the forewings are mostly filled with brown. The hind wings (i.e., lower wings) are white.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
State Rank: S2 - Imperiled


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Berrien 2 1998
Calhoun 1 2017
Cass 4 1997
Kalamazoo 2 2019
St. Joseph 1 2009

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.


In the Midwest, this species appears to be associated with two primary habitat types: dry-mesic forests and hydric grasslands. The Golden borer moth also is associated with prairie, idle/old field, right-of-way, mesic hardwood, dry hardwood, lowland conifer, inland emergent wetland, fen and swamp habitats. This species also is associated with large contiguous natural landscapes. In Michigan, the larval host is probably one of the lilies (Lilium superbum and likely others), May-apple (Podophyllum peltatum), bottlebrush grass (Hystrix patula), and dark green bulrush (Scirpus atrovirens). The larva bores into the shoot or roots of its host. The larvae start in grass and then generally switch to Lilium and related plants and Podophyllum.

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

Golden borer moths prefer a complex mosaic of wetland and upland habitats. This species is rare and populations tend to occur patchily. It is considered imperiled or critically imperiled in the state. Threats to this species include habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation due to conversion to agriculture lands; industrial, residential and/or recreational development; grazing and mowing patterns; invasive plants; forestry practices; pesticides and herbicides; wetland modifications; and lack of scientific knowledge. Surveys are needed to determine this species' status, abundance and distribution in the state. Research to obtain more information on this species' life history, ecology and conservation threats also is warranted. Golden borers are poor fliers and are therefore highly susceptible to fragmentation. Protection or restoration of complex habitat mosaics, particularly those containing fens or other wetlands, forest and prairie, is critical to the conservation of this species. More information on the use of these mosaics and comprehensive planning efforts will benefit this species. 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.

Active Period

Flight from first week of September to third week of October

Survey Methods

In Michigan, adults have been documented from September through mid-October. 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 or a good photograph and verification by a species expert.


Survey Period: From first week of September to third week of October

Time of Day: Evening
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.

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

  • 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.
  • 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