Plants and Animals

Photedes includens Included cordgrass borer moth

Key Characteristics

The included cordgrass borer moth is a relatively small moth with a wingspan that ranges from 2.2 to 2.7 cm. The forewings of the adult are orangish-brown with a pale light brown subterminal line running across. A distinct C-shaped white reniform spot surrounded by black outline that appears as a half-moon on each forewing. Hindwings are light-brown and are noticeably paler towards the base of the wings with pale fringe.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G4 - Apparently secure
State Rank: SNR - Not ranked


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Cass 1 2001
Lenawee 1 1969
Mackinac 1 1997
St. Joseph 1 2001

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.


This is a primarily northern species with occurrences east to Nova Scotia, west to Nebraska and Alberta, and south throughout the northern mid-west, including Michigan. It relies on habitats that support its primary host plants, cordgrasses (Spartina spp.), where larvae actively bore in the stems during development. This species has also been found on a limited number of sedge species, including tussock sedge (Carex stricta) (McAlpine et al. 2010). Associated habitats include wet meadows, wet-mesic prairie, prairie fens, and edges of wetlands.

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

The primary threat to populations of this moth include habitat loss and modification. Many wetland prairie habitats have been altered or drained for agriculture or development. Wetland alteration also can lead to invasion by non-native plant species such as glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), and reed (Phragmites australis subspecies australis). Maintaining the natural habitat of the included cordgrass borer moth will promote the long-term viability of populations of this species. Management activities that minimize the impact on populations of cordgrass in occupied habitats are necessary. These actions are best when mimicking natural disturbance regimes such as wildfire and periodic fluctuations in hydrology. Additional actions that can support this species include the removal of invasive plant species and/or avoiding construction of trails and paths through areas with abundant host plants. The widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides in agricultural production systems is also thought to impact the habitat of this species. Sites where this species is found to be extant should be protected and managed appropriately including maintaining healthy, viable populations of the host plants. Surveys to find additional populations and determine the status, abundance, and distribution of this species in the state are needed.

Active Period

Flight from fourth week of June to second week of September

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 (Hessel 1954). This species is thought to be extremely rare and can be difficult to identify in the wild. It is strongly recommended that observations of this species be verified through actual specimen vouchers or by a species expert. Blacklighting for this species should occur in habitat where the host plant is abundant.


Survey Period: From fourth week of June to second week of September

Time of Day: Night
Humidity: Humid
Cloud Cover: Overcast
Survey Method Comment: This species is thought to be extremely rare. Identification by an expert is needed.


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.
  • Hessel, S.A. 1954. A guide to collecting the plant boring larvae of the genus Papaipema (Noctuidae). Lepidopteran News 8:57-63.

Technical References

  • Bess, J. 2005. A Report on the Remnant-Dependent Insects of the Coastal Zone Natural Area Remnants in Northwest Indiana. 23 pp.
  • Lafontaine, J.D., and B.C. Schmidt. 2010. Annotated check list of the Noctuoidea (Insecta, Lepidoptera) of North America north of Mexico. ZooKeys 40: 1-239.
  • McAlpine, D. F., and I.M. Smith (Eds.). 2010. Assessment of species diversity in the Atlantic maritime ecozone. NRC Research Press.
  • NatureServe. 2019. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available
  • Photedes includens (Walker, 1858) in GBIF Secretariat (2019). GBIF Backbone Taxonomy. Checklist dataset accessed via on 2020-03-02.