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Silphium Borer Moth (Papaipema silphii)



Silphium borer moth (Papapaima silphii), a moth listed as Endangered, prefers sunny areas where host plants (Silphium speces including prairie dock, cup-plant, rosinweed, and compass plant) exist in good numbers. Habitat is generally wet to dry-mesic prairie.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Silphium Borer Moth (Papaipema silphii). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Papaipema silphii in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusEND
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2S3
Global RankG3G4
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

Note: a species guidance document is not available at this time. Information below was compiled from publication PUB-ER-085-99 (now out-of-print).

Identification: Adults are medium-sized moths with wingspans of 38-50 mm. Forewings are dull brown and heavily frosted with broad white scales. The marginal third of the forewing beyond the postmedial line is pale grayish and the hindwings are dull brown. Adults may be confused with other brown/gray Papaipema moths. Young Papaipema larvae are dark with dorsal and sub-dorsal white lines. Older larvae are translucent with markings very faint or absent. Search for larvae in host plant stems or roots beginning in late July.

Habitat: Inhabits wet to wet-mesic prairie or sedge meadow supporting the host plant, prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum). Possibly cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) of wet wooded areas may also be used by moths.

State Distribution: Occurs in Columbia, Dane, Green, Jefferson, Kenosha, Walworth, and Waukesha counties of Wisconsin.

Phenology: Adults fly from late August through late September, with the peak usually occurring during the first two weeks of September. The eggs are probably laid on the lower stems or on the soil near the host plant where they spend the winter. Larvae hatch in the spring and bore into the lower stalks of prairie dock, causing withering and browning of leaves. Pupation occurs in August in the soil.

Management Guidelines: Sensitive to fire. Overwintering eggs are exposed and may be killed by controlled burns conducted in fall or early spring. Larvae are present on the plants throughout the summer until pupation. No information is available to indicate when larvae use the roots of the plants where they would be more protected from fire. Where fire is used, allow sufficient unburned areas of habitat from which recolonization can take place.



Silphium Borer Moth

Photo © Les Ferge.

Silphium Borer Moth

Photo © Robert Panzer.

Last revised: Thursday, January 10, 2019