Black-Bordered Lemon Moth

Image of a Black-Bordered Lemon Moth
Scientific Name
Marimatha nigrofimbria
Noctuidae (owlet moths)

Adult black-bordered lemon moths, as the common name suggests, are yellow, and their wings have a black edge. There are no other lines present. There usually are two dark dots on each forewing. The forewings are often bright yellow with a lustrous or glossy look. The hindwings tend to be more muted.

Caterpillars are rather thin, with few hairs. Overall color is grass green, with some lengthwise pale stripes running down the body. Usually see on the leaves of grasses, on which they are perfectly camouflaged.

Similar species: Four other members of genus Marimatha occur in North America, and they look quite similar. However, those other four all have an extra line of some sort on the wings, in the postmedian area (running between the midline of the wing and the outer edge).


Wingspan: ¾–1 inch.

Where To Find
image of Black-Bordered Lemon Moth Distribution Map


Larvae will be found where their host plants live, which apparently can include lawns, pastures, grasslands, and wetlands — places where numerous grasses and sedges grow, and where saltmarsh morning glory, another listed food plant lives (however, that particular morning glory species does not occur in Missouri). The adults are nocturnal fliers that are attracted to lights.

Larvae are known to feed on members of the grass and morning glory families smooth crabgrass (a common lawn denizen) and saltmarsh morning glory (which does not occur in Missouri) have been singled out by some reporters. They may eat other foods, but apparently more study is needed on this species’ life history. Considering their narrow, green bodies, the caterpillars appear to be perfectly adapted for chewing on grass blades.

Life Cycle

Adults fly from April through October. Most owlet moths (noctuids) are nocturnal and are attracted to lights.

Because smooth crabgrass and saltmarsh morning glory are classified as weeds, the caterpillar’s use of them as food should raise people’s opinion of this species.

The caterpillars are herbivores that eat grasses and other plants. The adults apparently drink nectar from flowers and thus serve a role in pollination. The adults are eaten by bats, spiders, and many other predators. The caterpillars are likely eaten by moles, shrews, and more.

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Similar Species
About Butterflies and Moths in Missouri
Butterflies, skippers, and moths belong to an insect order called the Lepidoptera — the "scale-winged" insects. These living jewels have tiny, overlapping scales that cover their wings like shingles. The scales, whether muted or colorful, seem dusty if they rub off on your fingers. Many butterflies and moths are associated with particular types of food plants, which their caterpillars must eat in order to survive.