Protogygia comstocki McDunnough, 1934
OR : Lake Co.
Alkali L, 4390 ft
July 13, 2007, LG Crabo.
Specimen courtesy of LGCC
Photograph copyright: Merrill A. Peterson
Protogygia comstocki is the most variable of four streaky gray to brown Protogygia species with fused forewing orbicular and reniform spots and is restricted to sandy environments. These Protogygia species are difficult to identify by superficial appearance, but can usually be sorted by combination of subtle features of the maculation, size, and flight period. Protogygia comstocki is a medium-sized moth (FW length 16 - 19 mm), usually with slightly mottled, light, brown-gray forewings with diffuse lines and spots which appear hoary due to a sprinkling of dark scales. The ground color is variable from light cream to gray with red-brown flush or even charcoal gray. Patchy dark gray areas or wedges are often present at the outer margin. The transverse lines are light gray and are evident in most specimens. The antemedial line is deeply zig-zagged white the postmedial line is scalloped and gently excurved. The terminal line is a series of diffuse dark gray dots between the veins. The forewing fringe is lightly checkered light and dark gray. A short thin black basal dash is evident in most individuals. The orbicular spot is elongate, partially outlined in black in some specimens, evident only as the pale filling in some individuals. It is fused to the small wedge-shaped reniform spot in some, but not all, specimens. The hindwing is nearly white with light gray discal spot and lines on the veins at the position of the postmedian band in males; those of females are light gray with darker discal spot, veins, and patchy marginal band. The top of the head and thorax are hoary brown gray. The base of the collar is lighter gray than the apex, and a thin, black, transverse line separates these parts. The male antenna is beadlike with weak fasciculations.
Protogygia comstocki can be separated from Protogygia lagena and Protogygia postera by the browner forewing color of both of these species, as well as by the lack of transverse lines in both of these species. It is most similar to Protogygia enalaga which has similar gray color. This species is smoother and lacks nearly all transverse lines. Its basal dash is also longer, reaching the expected position of the antemedial line, whereas that of P. comstocki is very short.
This species is widely distributed in very dry desert habitats of the Mojave and Great Basin regions. In the Pacific Northwest, it is mostly restricted to very dry sagebrush steppe on sand substrate at low elevations.
Protogygia comstocki has a limited distribution in our region. It has been found near the Columbia River in south-central Washington. It also occurs in south-central Oregon. It is local, but can be common in the proper habitat.
Protogygia comstocki reaches its northern limit in our region. Further south it is found in eastern and southern California and Utah.
No information is presently available regarding larval foodplants of this species.
Adults of this species are on the wing in late spring and early summer. Records from our region span late May to mid-June. It is nocturnal and comes to light.
Lafontaine & Fauske (2004)