Kern Primrose Sphinx Moth (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae)

Scientific Name: Euproserpinus euterpe
Date of listing: 1980
Federal Status: Threatened
State Status: None

The current status of the Kern Primrose Sphinx is unknown. The species has not been seen in nature since 1982 despite significant efforts to find it. This species has returned from presumed extinction once; conservationists and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are hoping for a repeat performance. Until 1974 this moth had been thought to be extinct. The discovery of a population in southern Kern County renewed hopes for its preservation. Unfortunately, due to overcollection and continued habitat destruction, that population was apparently wiped out.

Not much is known about the biology of this species because there have been so few opportunites to study it. Adult females lay their eggs on evening primrose plants, Camissonia sp. The eggs hatch shortly thereafter and the larvae feed for several weeks, and enter the ground to pupate. The following spring, the adults emerge from the ground and begin to nectar and mate. The adults are active during the day. Most moths are primarily nocturnal.

An insidious introduced plant is probably partly responsible for this species decline. The plant, filaree (Erodium spp.) is an excellent nectar source for adult moths. Adult females will often lay their eggs on this plant as well. Unfortunately the newly hatched larvae cannot develop on this plant and shortly die. Sites of appropriate habitat for the moth have been identified and a plans for breeding and reintroducing the moth are in place; all we need now is the moth. We're keeping our fingers crossed.

For further reading:
Tuskes, P.M. and J.F. Emmel, 1981. The life history and behavior of Euproserpinus euterpe (Sphingidae). Journal of the Lepidopterist's Society 35(1): 27-33.