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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Police Car Moth - Gnophaela vermiculata

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: SNR

Agency Status


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General Description
The adult Police Car Moth (Gnophaela vermiculata) is all black except for large white spots on wings. The wings have white patches outlined by black veins on a black background. The wingspan is about 54 mm. Although there are a number of similar-looking species in the genus, this is the only species that occurs in Montana. The large size, black and white pattern in combination with the elongate wings and diurnal activity are unique to this species in Montana. The larvae are yellow with uniformly-distributed patches of black hairs that partly obscure the yellow ground color (Coin 2004).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Langton's Forester (Alypia langtoni) is smaller with black wings with white patches, and the larvae feed on foliage of Epilobium (fireweed) (USGS no date).

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
The Police Car Moth is common and widely distributed at mid elevations among the mountain ranges of western North America. It ranges from western Manitoba then west to British Columbia, and south to Utah and Colorado (Coin 2004).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 84

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

The Police Car Moth occurs in open, wooded areas of the foothills and boreal forest (Schmidt and Robinson no date).

Food Habits
The larvae feed on the foliage and flowers of Mertensia (bluebells). Adults nectar sources such as Cirsium (thistle) and Solidago species (goldenrod) (Coin 2004).

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Citation for data on this website:
Police Car Moth — Gnophaela vermiculata.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from