Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Monday, July 19, 2010

Return Of The Stealth Chompers

Southern Crimson Moth (Pyrausta inornatalis)

Last year I had a lot of fun sharing my experiences with the new to me and rare to Nashville Southern Crimson Moth. It had made itself at home on some purple basil and upon researching it I learned that it was was from Texas. There had been one other sighting of SCM in Nashville and I was the second. It was all rather exciting to have a new and adorably cute pink moth in my garden, except that it was eating my basil. This tiny moth, barely 3/8th of an inch long, was very well cloaked on the pink basil flowers. I had only noticed it when it flitted away if I got too close.

The triangular wing spread reminded me of the stealth bomber and its voracious appetite for the basil plants brought Stealth Chompers to mind. No surprise to me~ it's favorite larval food source was salvia, but, in a pinch it was happy to lay its eggs on my pretty purple basil. Quite quickly it transferred its love to the Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue' that I found on the dollar table at a big box store. It had become my mission to offer them tasty treats to keep them from my beloved Salvia azurea...that is still my mission!
Wouldn't you keep caterpillars from eating up this beauty!

Well they're back! This time they completely ignored the purple basil and headed straight for the salvia. You can find them chomping on red salvia and salmon pink 'Coral Nymph'. I can pick the tiny little caterpillars off the plants if they make too free and easy with the salvia. So far so good. It's odd that it has thrived so far from it's Texas home~I've wondered if it had hitchhiked here in some Texas grown salvias and was able to over winter on salvia I left standing. We may never know how they arrived here, but they seem to have decided to settle in~
It's good they're cute

If you don't mind~I'd like to share last years' production~ starring Southern Crimson Moth in
"Open Wide"

Thank you very much, but, could you open just a bit wider please?

Much better~~but, just a bit wider, please!
I don't mean to be so demanding! You're almost there!

I know you can do it!


Here at Clay and Limestone we're celebrating the Southern Crimson Moth (Pyrausta inornatalis) successfully finding its way to the perfect plant, Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue'. They are delicious together. Long may they remain together and far away from Salvia azurea! By the way, I brought 'Black and Blue' home from the $1 table and within minutes SCM had found them.

Isn't nature grand!

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. ~Albert Einstein


  1. You have a generous heart, dear Gail, to allow known chompers to dine freely. I do hope your plan of bait and switch works to save the S. azurea. We have millions of invisible chompers this year on everything from azalea leaves to hydrangea leaves to the susan flowers. I don't have a single intact susan, most don't even have petals. They have all been eaten by something. Holes R US is the theme. Not sure if anything can be done about it since we won't spray, but hand squishing is something we relish! :-)

  2. I have the same damage on heucheras and a lot of other plants~I think it's flea beetles~but, I can't see them and wonder if they are in the ground ready to reemerge this fall~ It was recommended I try Diatomaceous earth around the plants. Not sure what to do~But holes-R-Us seems to be the norm! gail

  3. It is a beautiful moth. You are so good to offer it dinner. The photo sequence is great.

  4. I almost, almost wish I had those cute little creeps! Great pix!

  5. They are so tiny and sweet. Beats my earwigs any day! The monarchs are starting to return here - although in very small numbers. A few holes are a small price to pay. If the plants get too chewed and are tall enough - I move them to the back - sort of like getting those empty buffet bins back into the kitchen so it all looks neat and tidy. And, happy belated b-day - hope this year is a splendid one.

  6. It's kind of hard to feel bad gardening thoughts for such a pretty and unusual colored insect.

    Love that crimson tone, and it does match the basil very well.


  7. Hey, it only took me 5 tries this time to leave a comment. Blogger, just what can I say.


  8. Jen, I am so glad you persevered~What's the most aggravating is that google is not responsive and leaves help to the boards/forums! Not good many times! gail

  9. A very pretty little moth Gail. I remember your post last year.
    I hope your careful planting, is successful, in keeping the moth away from your more precious plants......

    Tku for sharing.

  10. The 'stealth chomper' moth is quite handsome and you are a very gracious garden hostess, Gail!

  11. Gail,

    Your visitor is pretty in pink, but I'd be blue about it eating my prized salvias, too.


    (My new prize is Salvia chamaedryoides with silver foliage to shine for those blue blooms! I haven't written about it yet -- soon)

  12. It really is such a lovely color for a...moth. I'm always surprised at how pretty some moth species are. I hope your Salvia survives its new lodger better than my Scrophularia did. My checkerspot butterfly larvae ate it almost clean to the ground!

  13. Gosh, that's wonderful. Your photos really made me smile.

    I wonder if the nice folks at Curbstone Farm would send me some of their checkerspot butterfly larvae. I planted scrophularia, and the butterflies haven't found me.

  14. What a splendid moth. It looks to me like the salvia is about to eat it instead of the other way around.

  15. I agree with Frances, Gail--you are indeed tender-hearted to allow these toothy critters to chomp on your salvia. But I must admit, I do think they're awfully cute, especially in that chic shade of pink.

    I also have a holy garden...but I think it's due to earwigs. Whatever it is, they're very stealthy, too.

  16. Ah, who can resist a pink moth? And what a smart choice, wouldn't have looked as good against a red flower ;-> You could probably do an open wide series, didn't you have at least one other set earlier?

  17. I love your Salvia azurea. Wonder if I can find it down here in Louisiana...

  18. I need to shop where you do if 'Black and Blue' is only a buck!

  19. Mary, Yes it will grow in LA~If you can't find the plants Easyliving wildflowers.com has seeds~

  20. Gail, what wonderful macros, and that last shot is priceless.

  21. Les, It was half dead and needed love!

  22. Stealth chompers is hilarious. They do look a Barbie bomber don't they? Hope you have enough basil and salvia to go around.~~Dee

  23. The moth is very pretty, as is the salvia!

  24. thanks for a n interesting post. I loved you "open wide" series! That is a beautiful moth; i wouldn't mind if he flew down to my garden!

  25. Wonderful photos of the chomper Gail! Lucky for it it's so pretty. The worst chompers here are earwigs, slugs, and Japanese beetles. The earwigs and slugs, of course, are not pretty. The Japanese beetles are, but I still have no problem stomping these chompers. I couldn't do that with your cute little moth though.

  26. Hey Gail,
    I just wanted you to know I added your blog to the soon to be launched North Carolina Nursery and Landscape Association blog roll for NC Blogs!


    I also wanted to make sure you received my new link for Gardening With Confidence's blog



    I hope you are doing well!


  27. At first I was thinking you weren't happy they were back but by the end of the post, I see you are. I'm not sure I would feel the same way even tho (as your photos show) they do "look" good together.
    If you say it's a good thing tho, I believe you!!! :-)

  28. Hi Gail, I was wondering what was eating my basil! I'll have to go look for little pink moths. We have piles of basil so I guess I can share...I'll go to war over the tomatoes though! Big green and light green ones, dozens, no red ones yet!

    xxoo Lynn


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson