National Moth Week: Coffee-Loving Pyrausta (Pyrausta tyralis)

Coffee-Loving Pyrausta moth (Pyrausta tyralis) © Laura Bennett-Kimble

Gardeners seeking Florida native plants often gravitate to the glossy-leafed, shade-tolerant wild coffee (Psychotria nervosa) shrub, which also happens to be the favorite larval host plant for today’s moth, the Coffee-Loving Pyrausta.

This is a very small, subtly colorful moth with a wingspan of around .75 inches, and its nectar sources are fairly wide-ranging, from species of Bidens to Coreopsis and beyond.

But when it comes to where it prefers to lay its eggs, Psychotria nervosa is where it’s at. The plant is only found in the Florida peninsula and isn’t suitable for the chillier winters of the Panhandle. However, according to BugGuide, the moth’s habitat ranges from Florida to Arizona and as far north as Illinois and New York. This means that the moth is using other larval host plants, too.

Keep in mind, you’ll want to leave the wild coffee for the Coffee-Loving Pyrausta moths and fruit-loving birds, since the plant has no known use as a coffee substitute and likely got its common name from its morphological similarity to coffee, which is in the same plant family, according to the Atlas of Florida Plants.

Seen any interesting moths lately? Remember to share your photos through iNaturalist’s National Moth Week citizen science project. For more information, visit National Moth Week.

By Laura Bennett-Kimble of Passionflower Chapter

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