Pinions, the sallows’ cousins

9914 - Lithophane laticinerea - Triple-spotted Pinion
Triple-spotted Pinion, Lithophane laticinerea

The weather remains cool, although the last couple of days have at least been sunny. It’s been nice to see the sun and enjoy being outside, even if the brisk wind has made it a bit nippy. Temperatures are supposed to rise by the end of the week, so I’m looking forward to the moths starting to fly again then.

Earlier this week I highlighted the sallows. Closely realted to the sallows are the pinions, another group that flies in late fall and early spring. They are in fact in the same subfamily as the sallows, but contained within their own genus, Lithophane.

9910 - Lithophane antennata - Ashen Pinion
Ashen Pinion, Lithophane antennata

Within the pinions there are two different “styles” of moth. The first, and the type that I typically associate with the name pinion, are like the two above. They are characterized by being gray, with the orbicular and reniform wing spots defined, often with one filled in with white. They are typically long and narrow, their wings rolled around their body.

9915 - Lithophane grotei - Grote's Pinion (2)
Grote’s Pinion, Lithophane grotei

Some of the gray pinions are similar enough to each other that it can be difficult to be certain of which species you’re looking at. Differences are subtle, and more often than not I settle on an identification with a caveat that it could very well be any one of the others, particularly given my own inexpertise with moths (I’m sure someone who had been mothing for many years would feel more comfortable with them than I do).

9893 - Lithophane hemina - Hemina Pinion (2)
Hemina Pinion, Lithophane hemina

The other group of pinions are more sallow-like in shape, although many of them have broad tufts of fur on their shoulders that make them look like they’re wearing some sort of fancy epaulets.

9893 - Lithophane hemina - Hemina Pinion (4)
Hemina Pinion, Lithophane hemina

They also all have a sort of woodgrain pattern. Like with the gray pinions, there are some identification challenges with this group, as well. Some species have two morphs, a dark and a light, such as the above two Hemina Pinions.

9885 – Lithophane semiusta - Singed Pinion
Singed Pinion, Lithophane semiusta

The other thing I notice about these latter pinions is that they all seem to have bowed outer margins to their wings, compared to the relatively straight wings of the sallows. This Singed Pinion I actually at first thought was a sallow because it isn’t as woodgrainy as the other pinions I’d been getting, but the wings should’ve been a clue.

9887 - Lithophane bethunei - Bethune's Pinion
Bethune’s Pinion, Lithophane bethunei

Even with all their confusion, it’s nice to have such variety appearing in the early spring. The chunky moths such as the sallows and pinions are a favourite group of mine, even over the flashier groups like underwings and silk moths, so I look forward to seeing them.

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