Last night (17 March 2012), an amazing moth flew through an open door and into our kitchen. In general, moths are underappreciated. But when viewed up close, their beautiful colors and patterns are often stunning. This one reminded me of a Persian rug.
I think it's a species of Cerastis, perhaps Cerastis gloriosa. (If someone out there is familiar with this species, it would be great to hear more about its identity and life history.)
Here's a view with wings closed.
And a closeup of the head and antennae. Note that the antennae are not knobbed, i.e., they taper all the way to the tips. (In contrast, most butterflies have knobbed antennae.)
The luxurious hairs behind the head look a bit like a lion's mane!
Here's a view showing the colors and patterns on the forewing. This moth has probably just emerged from a pupa recently — all of the scales look new and barely worn. Individual scales are especially visible in the pink band just inside the fringe (those aren't pixels!).
Remember that Lepidoptera (the group containing moths and butterflies) means "scale wing". The scales are actually modified hairs that look somewhat like shingles on a roof when viewed under high magnification.
If this is Cerastis gloriosa, the account in Moths of Western North America (Powell and Opler, 2009) describes their flight period as late February to late April.