Plants and Animals

Papaipema maritima Maritime sunflower borer

Key Characteristics

The Maritime sunflower borer moth has an average wingspan of 1.6 inches (4.0 cm). The forewings (i.e., upper wings) are grayish brown or dusky brown in color, with a white dusting to form very fine white scales, much narrower than the normal ones, gathering to form a fine postmedial line (third line in from the outer margin) which is sharply bent than almost straight to the bottom margin of the forewing. The hind wings (i.e., lower wings) are light brown.

Status and Rank

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


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Allegan 1 1997
Berrien 2 1990
Cass 2 1994
Jackson 1 1988
Monroe 2 1989
St. Joseph 2 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.


The Maritime sunflower borer moth is an Atlantic coast species with disjunct populations in the Midwest. The species is restricted to mesic and wet-mesic prairies and prairie fens. The larvae bore into the stalks of the giant or tall sunflower (Helianthus giganteus), forming a stem gall. This species also is associated with idle/old fields, right-of-ways and inland emergent wetlands. The tall sunflower host plant favors moist sites including wet prairies, fens, sedge meadows, tamarack swamps, river banks and floodplain woods, borders of upland forests and wet depressions, marshes and ditches.

Specific Habitat Needs

Host plant needed in: Emergent marshMesic prairiePrairie 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

Threats to this species include habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation due to conversion to agricultural lands; industrial, residential and/or recreational development; encroachment by shrubs and invasive plants; pesticides and herbicides; wetland modifications; incompatible natural resource management; altered fire regimes; altered hydrologic regimes; 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 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 plant. 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.

Active Period

Flight from third week of September to fourth week of October

Survey Methods

In Michigan, adults have been documented from mid-September to mid- to late 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 and verification by a species expert.


Survey Period: From third week of September to fourth 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

  • 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.K. 2004. Natural community abstract for mesic prairie. Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Lansing, MI. 10 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
  • Voss, E.G. 1996. Michigan Flora. Part III. Dicots (Pyrolaceae-Compositae). Bulletin of the Cranbrook Institute of Science and University of Michigan Herbarium. 622pp.