Panthea virginarius Grote,

Anweiler, Gary G., 2009, Revision of the New World Panthea Hübner (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae) with descriptions of 5 new species and 2 new subspecies, ZooKeys 9 (9), pp. 97-134: 121-123

publication ID 10.3897/zookeys.9.157

publication LSID


persistent identifier

treatment provided by


scientific name

Panthea virginarius Grote


Panthea virginarius Grote 

Figs. 29-35View Figures 28-43, 50-51View Figures 50-57, 62View Figures 58-68, 69View Fig

Biston virginarius Grote, 1880: 220  .

Lycia virginaria (Grote)  ; Dyar 1902: 328.

Panthea virginaria (Grote)  ; Barnes and McDunnough 1917: 83; McDunnough 1938: 54; Franclemont and Todd 1983: 134.

Panthea portlandia Grote, 1896: 14  ; Dyar 1902: 98; Smith 1903: 98; Barnes and Mc- Dunnough 1917: 83; McDunnough 1938: 54; Franclemont and Todd 1883: 134. New synonomy.

Panthea angelica Dyar, 1921: 142  ; McDunnough 1938: 54; Franclemont and Todd 1883: 134. New synonomy.

Panthea portlandia suffusa McDunnough, 1942: 94  ; Franclemont and Todd 1883: 134. New Synonomy.

Type material. Biston virginarius  : Holotype female, Soda Springs , Shasta Co, California, USA ( BMNH). Photograph examined 

Panthea angelica: Mt. Lowe, Los Angeles  , California, USA. Holotype male ( USNM) Photograph examined; genitalia slide apparently lost.

Panthea portlandia  : described by Grote from 2 specimens from Portland, Oregon, USA. Types could not be located in either the BMNH or USNM and may be lost.

Panthea virginaria suffusa  : described from a holotype male from Dixon Creek, Barriere, British Columbia, Canada. The specimen was reared from a larva collected from Picea englemanni  . (Type # 5282 in CNC). Adult and genitalic slide examined.

Diagnosis. Panthea virginarius  varies greatly in size and color pattern depending on location and habitat. Both sexes of P. virginarius  can be very difficult to separate from those of P. gigantea  where they occur together unless genitalic characters are used. The tip of the uncus can usually be examined without dissection by brushing the scales from the end of the abdomen; the male of P. gigantea  has a bifurcate tip to the uncus ( Fig. 48View Figures 44-49), P. virginarius  does not ( Fig. 50View Figures 50-57). Females can be separated by the structure of the sterigma, which is much larger and more massively sclerotized in P. gigantea  ( Fig. 60View Figures 58-68) than in P. virginarius  ( Fig. 62View Figures 58-68). Black and white specimens of P. virginarius  from southern British Columbia and Idaho ( Fig. 35View Figures 28-43) have been mistaken for nominate P. acronyctoides  ( Fig. 36View Figures 28-43), but the two taxa are well separated by range ( Figs. 69View Fig, 72View Fig). In the Rocky Mountains from Alberta and British Columbia southward P. virginarius  can be confused with P. acronyctoides nigra  . Panthea virginarius  is larger and the male has a paler, banded hindwing than nigra; females can be differentiated by examining the ductus, which is wrinkled in P. virginarius  ( Fig. 62View Figures 58-68), smooth with an expanded rim around the ostium in nigra ( Fig. 63View Figures 58-68).

Distribution and biology. Panthea virginarius  occurs mainly west and north of the Great Basin, from the coast of southern California northward to the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia and the Alaskan Panhandle, eastward to central California, northern Nevada, Idaho, northwestern Wyoming, western Montana, and southwest- ern Alberta; a disjunct population is in the Cypress Hills of Alberta and Saskatchewan ( Fig. 69View Fig). Large black and white populations (syn. “ portlandia  ”) occur along the coast from central California to southern British Columbia. These are replaced by gray and black populations both farther north and farther south along the coast, and at higher elevations inland. Intermediate populations occur at lower elevations eastward as far as western Montana and extreme southwestern Alberta.

Panthea virginarius  is found in coniferous forests, in particular but not confined to Douglas-fir forest ( Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco  ) at elevations ranging from sea-level to near tree-line.

Remarks. Panthea virginarius  appears in checklists as both the original spelling virginarius  (e.g., Grote 1880; Poole 1989) and virginaria  (e.g., Franclemont and Todd 1983) with the ending changed from the original spelling for gender congruity. The original spelling is used herein.

The taxonomy of Panthea virginarius  has suffered from the same plethora of errors as has occurred elsewhere in the genus, starting with Grote describing virginarius  as a geometrid ( Biston  ), and finishing with McDunnough describing suffusa as a form of portlandia  because the P. virginarius  specimens he used for comparison were misidentified specimens of P. acronyctoides nigra  .

Panthea angelica  is a population of P. virginarius  in southern coastal California (Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties). Internally it is identical to nominate virginarius  , and externally differs only by being slightly more suffused with dark scales and thus appearing less powdery. The name angelica  has been widely misapplied, both in the literature (e.g., Crumb 1956) and on museum specimens of P. greyi  and P. acronyctoides nigra  , lending weight to the apparently mistaken belief that angelica  was a good species.

Panthea portlandia  is the name that has been applied to the large and striking black and white coastal populations of P. virginarius  that occur mainly at lower elevations from northern California to southwestern British Columbia. Inland, and at higher elevations, this form intergrades with typical P. virginarius  , but some of the white shading of the portlandia  phenotype is still evident as far east as western Montana and southwestern Alberta. Both white and gray forms occur together at some locations in central Washington. The genitalia are indistinguishable from those of typical P. virginarius  , so the name portlandia  is also placed in synonymy under P. virginarius  .

Panthea portlandia suffusa  was described by McDunnough after comparing it to what he believed were specimens of P. virginarius  from Colorado and Alberta, but which were in fact specimens of P. acronyctoides nigra  . This is evident from his description of the genitalia of P. virginarius  , which accurately describes P. acronyctoides  , not portlandia ( McDunnough 1942)  . An examination of his slides in the CNC confirms this. It also explains his puzzling (but accurate) statement that based on the genitalia slides of males from Colorado and Nordegg, Alberta, P. virginarius  seemed to be merely a large western race of P. acronyctoides Walker ( McDunnough 1942)  .

Specimens of P. virginarius  from northwestern Wyoming tend to be lighter gray, and specimens from Wyoming and adjacent areas of Idaho tend to have the diverticulum of the vesica and its terminal spine greatly reduced in size, and occasionally obsolete.

The various forms of P. virginarius  vary greatly in both size and in the proportions of black and white scaling, and thus external appearance varies greatly over a very large geographic area. However, with the exception of specimens in a small area of northwestern Wyoming, little significant variation occurs in the genitalia of either sex, and all are treated as forms rather than subspecies. Further study, particularly in California, may show that one or more populations there should be recognized at the subspecies level, e.g., a silvery-gray population on the Monterey Peninsula that has been reared on Monterey pine ( Pinus radiata D. Don  ) (Frank Sala pers. comm.).

The life history of P. virginarius  on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. is briefly described by Hardy (1963). The larva and adult female are illustrated in color (as P. portlandia  ) by Miller and Hammond (2003), and the larva is described and illustrated in color by Duncan (2006).


Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History


Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids, and Nematodes














Panthea virginarius Grote

Anweiler, Gary G. 2009

Panthea portlandia suffusa

McDunnough J 1942: 94

Panthea angelica

McDunnough, J 1938: 54
Dyar HG 1921: 142

Panthea virginaria (Grote)

Franclemont JG & Todd EL 1983: 134
McDunnough, J 1938: 54
Barnes W & McDunnough J 1917: 83

Lycia virginaria (Grote)

Dyar HG 1902: 328

Panthea portlandia

McDunnough, J 1938: 54
Smith JB 1903: 98
Dyar HG 1902: 98
Grote AR 1896: 14

Biston virginarius

Grote AR 1880: 220