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For information on Wisconsin's rare vertebrate animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
Conservation Biologist
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Jay Watson
Conservation Biologist

Phlox Moth (Schinia indiana)



Phlox Moth (Schinia indiana), listed as State Endangered, is about 0.6 inch long as adults and can often co-occur with Karner Blue Butterflies. Phlox Moths adults have pink to reddish forewings with triangular violet median areas and slender violet margins. The hind wings, which are rarely visible, are black with yellowish fringe. Wingspan is about 1.3 inches (33mm). Larvae are unlikely to be found but the head is dark or orange and the body is green suffused with reddish-brown and marked with light lateral stripes. This species is most often found on the brightest or "freshest" blossoms of its host plant, the downy phlox which occurs in pine/oak barrens and scrub oak habitat as well as prairies and roadsides on sandy soils. Downy phlox requires open, sunny sites with some shade and doesn't appear to colonize new openings very quickly. The critical period of the plant's growth from the end of April through July coincides with adult emergence and larval development. It is therefore critical to time spring burns or mowing so that it doesn't disrupt the flowering of the downy phlox, which is needed by the moths. Management is best conducted after mid-July once the moths have become pupae.

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 Phlox Moth (Schinia indiana). 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 Schinia indiana in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusEND
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2S3
Global RankG2G4
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

Note: a species guidance document is not available at this time. Information below was originally presented as part of the Online Field Guide to Rare Lepidoptera: Bogs and Barrens.

Identification: The forewings are crimson with a subtle violet triangular median area and thin violet outer margin. The hindwings are black with white fringe. The head and thorax are dark gray and the abdomen black. This moth looks like a crimson wedge as it perches with its wings folded on the pink phlox blossom. Its distinctive appearance and close association with downy phlox (Phlox pilosa) makes it readily identifiable in Wisconsin. It is quite sedentary and spends much of the day resting on or among flowers. Wingspan: 17-21 mm. Length of forewing: 8-10 mm. Early instar larvae have a dark head and cream to pale greenish-yellow body. Later instars have orange heads and a green body with a greenish gray median line bordered by reddish brown (Hardwick 1958). Last instar larvae are green with a brown dorsal band and fine yellow lateral lines and rows of yellow dorso-lateral spots (Hardwick 1996).

Similar Species: Females of the common Noctuid, Galgula partita, are slightly larger with a darker maroon forewing.

Habitat: Sandy dry to dry-mesic savannas (black/Hill's oak or jack pine barrens) and small dry-mesic prairie openings with an abundance of Phlox pilosa. Also pine/oak barrens and scrub oak habitat. Often co-occurs with the Karner blue butterfly. Microhabitat includes pholox flower blossoms.

Host Plant: Downy phlox (Phlox pilosa).

State Distribution: Burnett, Eau Claire, Jackson, Menominee, and Monroe counties. May be more common than the number of currently known sites indicate due to difficulty experienced in finding the moths and the small number of individuals actively searching for new localities.

Global Distribution: Documented from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Arkansas.

Rationale for Species Listing and Threats: Loss of habitat through reduction of barrens openings due to forest succession. Tree planting has also been implicated as a factor in habitat loss. The larval stage is exposed and susceptible to pesticide spraying during the spring. Inappropriate and ill-timed mowing or herbiciding of roadsides and powerline right-of-ways threaten habitat and immature stages.

Phenology: Adults are present during the last week of May to mid June.

Life and Natural History: Adults emerge in spring and females lay eggs on the inner surface of the sepals of the flower buds. Eggs hatch within a week and the larvae burrow into the flower bud and later the seeds to feed. Larvae mature within three weeks (Hardwick 1958) and by mid July have pupated and remain as pupae through the summer, fall, and winter. A remnant-dependent species.

Survey Guidelines: The adult is diurnal and is not attracted to blacklight at night. Surveys require searching the flower heads of Phlox pilosa during the day. It is well camouflaged on phlox blossoms on which it rests, making it difficult to spot. The moths are most often found on the bright pink or "fresh" blossoms of phlox rather than those that are faded. Moths have also been observed to rest beneath the calyx of the flower or lower on the stem. Searches for the moth appear to be less productive under hot sunny conditions and are best conducted under cloudy to partly cloudy conditions, possibly early in the morning or late in the day, or when the day is cool or even rainy. See Incidental Take Protocols:

Inventory, Monitoring and Research Needs: Locate new sites within the range of Phlox pilosa.

Management Guidelines: Removal of phlox growth from May to July would be harmful to populations by flower loss or delayed flowering. Several S. indiana locations in Wisconsin are right-of ways where roadside mowing may be safely undertaken in August when presumably the species is underground. Depth of hibernation is unknown for this species so effects of soil disturbance or fire management during the period from August through April cannot be predicted. See Incidental Take Protocols:



Phlox Moth

Phlox moth

Photo by Rori Paloski, WDNR.

Phlox Moth

Phlox Moth - Male and female, Eau Claire County.

Photo © Ann Swengel.

Phlox Moth

Photo © Les Ferge.

Phlox Moth

Photo © Robert Borth.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Phlox Moth. Only natural communities for which Phlox Moth is "high" (score=3) or "moderate" (score=2) associated are shown. See the key to association scores for complete definitions. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Natural community Score
Dry-mesic Prairie 3
Oak Barrens 3
Pine Barrens 3
Sand Prairie 2

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Phlox Moth. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Phlox Moth occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Issues/threats and conservation actions

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for rare animals

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Last revised: Thursday, October 08, 2020