What Dark Brown Moth or Butterfly Has a Metallic Electric Blue Body and Orange Head?

In mid-June I started paying attention to the many butterflies and moths that were enjoying the flowering shrubs. One really caught my eye though: it had a shiny, turquoise blue body and very plain dark wings. The first one I watched kept flying between a flowering shrub and a nearby conifer tree. Eventually I got a good look at it (and some photos) so I could identify it as a Virginia Ctenucha Moth.

Do Moths Only Fly at Night?

Photo of Virginia Ctenucha Moth Nectar on NaturalCrooksDotCom

Nope. That’s one of the many things that make it tricky for me to know whether to look for a new winged wonder in my Peterson Field Guide to Moths or my ROM Guide to the Butterflies of Ontario.

Yes, I know butterflies usually perch with their wings closed held up over their backs. So how come I keep getting great photos of everything from Swallowtails to Little Satyrs with their wings spread flat out to admire?

Yes, I understand that butterflies usually have “club” ends to their antenna and moths usually have “feathery” antenna. When an insect is flying past at a zillion kilometers an hour, though, I can’t usually see the antenna at all.

Photo of Virginia Ctenucha Moth Antenna on NaturalCrooksDotCom
You can see this Ctenucha’s feathery antenna.

Anyway, to my surprise, this showy creature was a day-flying moth, mingling happily with all other sorts of butterflies, including Cabbage Whites, Little Wood Satyrs, Red Admirals and even a few Hairstreaks.

Photo of Virginia Ctenucha Black Phase on NaturalCrooksDotCom
These moths can look very black in certain lights.

Does the Virginia Ctenucha Live on Virginia Creeper?

The first of these moths that I saw were in an area with lots of Virginia Creeper vines.

Photo of Virginia Ctenucha Moth Blue Body On NaturalCrooksDotCom
The electric blue body is very noticeable especially in flight.

Apparently that has nothing to do with the name, though. This Ctenuchas’ caterpillars like to eat grasses, sedges and iris, according to BugGuide.net.

As I saw, the moths like to take nectar from flowers.

Photo of Virginia Ctenucha on Gravel On NaturalCrooksDotCom
This particular Ctenucha was apparently gathering minerals from the path.

Virginia Ctenucha can be found in the state of Virginia. They are also found in all of the Canadian provinces.

Photo of Virginia Ctenucha Moths Flight on NaturalCrooksDotCom
This shows that in flight you may see some of the white edging on the wings and the blue and orange colouring.

I quite enjoyed seeing these moths and just when I was getting used to them, they vanished. I’m not sure if we will get two batches of adults in this area, so I’ll have to keep my eyes open over July and August for reappearance.

Photo of Virginia Ctenucha Moth Head On on NaturalCrooksDotCom
When the Ctenuchas are moving around plants sometimes the orange near the front end is very noticeable.

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Have you seen one of these moths with the startlingly blue body? Please share your sighting with a comment.

22 thoughts on “What Dark Brown Moth or Butterfly Has a Metallic Electric Blue Body and Orange Head?

  1. We just saw one of these on our butterfly bush. We live in SW Ontario and I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen one. Thanks for posting your findings — I had gotten online in an effort to identify it.

  2. A friend, who lives in central Minnesota, has seen many of these around her rural home for the first time this year. Would this sighting more southerly of the Canadian provinces be related to global warming?

    • I believe that Minnesota has been part of their range all along, in which case it’s more likely that something has changed near her home that is helping them, perhaps a new type of grass, sedge or iris is growing in the area. Luckily, they are not considered a pest, so it should be ok. Thanks for sharing the sighting!

  3. I have tons feeding on milkweed on my property in Northeast Wisconsin. I had to search many sites to find the name and physical characteristics. None of the references list them as native to Wisconsin.

  4. Found one on my garden fence in rural central Wisconsin, near Waupaca. We have all kinds of plants, live near the “tension zone” so there are a variety of habitats, lots of water, mix of prairie, conifer and hardwood forest. Thank you for the opportunity to ID this insect, new to me.

  5. I am in Cheboygan, Michigan and out of nowhere this moth/butterfly came flying in plain daylight. It stayed flying around for a bit and it disappeared. It was beautiful!!

  6. Just looked up the little dark moth and, yes , this is what we have. This is the second year we’ve had them. We are near Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

  7. Unfortunately, the moth I saw was dead – in the house. We are in Lewiston, Michigan – northern part of the mitten. I was happy to find out what it was. Now I can look for more.

  8. I had seen only one on July 17, 2017. It struck me as strangely beautiful as I had never seen this coloration on a moth as I live in NY. I had only seen it because of the beautiful electric blue colors. It continued to land gently on the tip of my nose, softly yet the wings flapped happily and rather fast.

  9. Just saw one in Johnson, Vermont. One of the most beautiful creatures I’ve ever seen. Fluttered right in front of me and landed on my sweatshirt.

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