Moths of North Carolina
Scientific Name:
Common Name:
Family (Alpha):
Sole representative of Micropterigidae in NC
11 NC Records

Epimartyria auricrinella Walsingham, 1898 - Goldcap Moss-eater Moth

Superfamily: Micropterigoidea Family: MicropterigidaeSubfamily: [Micropteriginae]Tribe: [Micropterigini]P3 Number: 10001.00 MONA Number: 1.00
Comments: Epimartyria auricrinella is a member of the Micropterigidae, which is one of the most ancient moth families. Fossil micropterigids as old as 140 million year ago are known from the lower Cretaceous. This is one of only three members of this genus in North America, and the only Epimartyria in the eastern US.
Species Status: Davis and Landry (2012) found that E. auricrinella populations exhibit a high amount of haplotype divergence, but genetic differences between populations appeared to be unrelated to morphology, geography or phenology. The variation observed in male genitalia was present across haplotypes from the same locality and seemed unrelated to geography. As such, they considered the variation in both haplotypes and morphology to be intraspecific. It is possible that a much broader haplotype sampling of mtDNA, along with analyses of nuclear genes, could reveal a cryptic species complex within this species. The holotype for this species is a specimen in the British Museum of Natural History collected by H.K. Morrison in North Carolina in 1884 (Davis and Landry, 2012).
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984); Beadle and Leckie (2012)Online Photographs: MPG; BugGuide; BAMONATechnical Description, Adults: Davis and Landry (2012)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Davis and Landry (2012)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: This is a rather distinctive moth with a head that is covered with light orange brown hairs, and a widely rounded forewing that is dark fuscous, with a coppery or golden to purplish luster dorsally (Davis and Landry, 2012). The forewing is less iridescent ventrally and has a conspicuous fringe that is paler and more gray. The hindwing is dark fuscous and iridescent on the distal third, but becomes more gray and less iridescent over the basal two-thirds. The antennae are dark brown to fuscous and the labial palps are cream-colored. The legs are medium to dark brown dorsally and light brown ventrally. Doleromorpha porphyria is a tineid that looks superficially similar to E. auricrinella, but has narrower forewings and the apical fringe is far less pronounced compared to E. auricrinella. Specimens can also be differentiated from E. auricrinella by technical features such as the presence of a proboscis (absent in E. auricrinella), and the wing venation and wing-coupling mechanism (see for details). The mature larva can reach 5 mm in length, and the body is approximately hexagonal in cross section. The color is generally brown, but lighter brown ventrally. The integument over the dorsal half of the body has a honeycomb-like surface of raised ridges, while the integument of the ventral half is densely covered with micropapillae with an extensive plastron surface laterally (Davis and Landry, 2012). The primary setae are longitudinally ribbed, and are moderately slender, long, and clavate.
Forewing Length: 4.2–5.6 mm (Davis and Landry (2012).
Adult Structural Features: The following is a description of the genitalia from Davis and Landry (2012). Male genitalia: The caudal lobes of tergum X are broadly rounded. The caudal apex of sternum X is deeply divided, with the apex of the lobes acute and recurved. A pair of short, lateral lobes are present near the base. The valvae are moderately long, with the ventral length being nearly half the maximum length of segment IX. The apex is subacute and bears a short, slender, recurved spine. A short, triangular, rounded process arises midway from the mesal surface. The elongate basal process is ~ 4/5 the length of the valva. The distal margin of the valva varies within populations from slightly concave to convex. The dorsal branch of the phallus is cylindrical and smooth. Female genitalia: Abdominal segment IX is a complete ring with a mid-dorsal length of ~ 0.5–0.6× the mid ventral length. Segment X consists of a pair of lateral, setose plates. The cloaca ends terminally, and segment X often telescopes into segments IX and VIII in repose. Apophyses are absent. The genital chamber has thickened walls that surround a variably shaped sclerite, and the caudal end of the sclerite is furcate. The ductus spermatheca has a moderately enlarged, spindle-shaped reservoir (utriculus) that is located at varying distances along the ductus. The Corpus bursae gradually enlarges anteriorly, and is membranous, with four tridentaform signa equally spaced around the middle. The enlarged bases of the signa project externally beyond the wall of the corpus bursae and have spinose branches that project internally. Epimartyria auricrinella is a member of only one of three extant families whose adults possess articulated mandibles and lack a coilable proboscis (Davis and Landry, 2012).
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: The natural history of the immature stages is poorly documented. Larvae feed on leafy liverworts that grow in moist habitats. Larvae collected from liverwort mats in Quebec were of two size classes, suggesting that the larval stage spans two years in Canada (Davis and Landry, 2012). The pupae have never been collected.
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Epimartyria auricrinella occurs widely over eastern North America. Populations have been documented from Nova Scotia, Maine, and Ontario, westward to Michigan, and southward down the Appalachians to eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, and northeastern Georgia. A recent discovery of this species in Craven Co. on the coast was unexpected given that almost all records from the southern portion of the range are from cool, moist habitats in the Appalachian Mountains.
County Map: Clicking on a county returns the records for the species in that county.
Flight Dates:
 High Mountains (HM) ≥ 4,000 ft.
 Low Mountains (LM) < 4,000 ft.
 Piedmont (Pd)
 Coastal Plain (CP)

Click on graph to enlarge
Flight Comments: Davis and Landry (2012) reported that the adults generally begin to emerge in mid-May in the southern part of their range. Our earliest records are from the later half of April. Further north the adults in northern New York and Canada are active between mid-June and mid-July. Our records from July are from high peaks (Mt. Mitchell; Clingman's Dome).
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Epimartyria auricrinella is strongly affiliated with shaded, mesic to hydric habitats that support leafy liverworts, and in particular Bazzania trilobata. Examples include bogs, humid high-elevation forests, substrates near waterfalls, floodplain forests with wetlands, and the edges of woodland streams and seepages. The larvae possess a plastron that is adapted for living for short periods of time in semiaquatic habitats that are often saturated with water (Davis and Landry, 2012). Almost all of our records as of 2020 are from cool, moist habitats in the western mountains. A recent discovery of a Coastal Plain population in Craven Co. by Bo Sullivan was unexpected. Bazzania trilobata appears to be rare in coastal areas, but there are two records from nearby New Hanover and Pender Cos., which suggest that isolated populations of E. auricrinella might occur along the coast where B. trilobata occurs. Another possibility is that E. auricrinella is using other hosts in coastal habitats.
Larval Host Plants: The only documented host is a leafy liverwort, Bazzania trilobata. Other Bazzania species occur in North Carolina that might be potential hosts, and much remains to be learned about the host-specificity of this species.
Observation Methods: The adults are diurnal and only occasionally visit UV lights. Specimens are best obtained by gently sweep-netting the understory of humid forests, or sweeping clumps of liverworts. The adults are often seen perched on low foliage during the day.
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: GNR SU
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: This species appears to be uncommon in North Carolina due to its apparent strong reliance on a leafy liverwort (Bazzania trilobata) as a host plant. We are uncertain if a recently discovery population in Craven Co. uses Bazzania trilobata as a host. If so, both this population and the mountain populations will likely be adversely affected as the climate continues to warm.

 Photo Gallery for Epimartyria auricrinella - Goldcap Moss-eater Moth

Photos: 5

Recorded by: Lori Owenby on 2016-06-29
Yancey Co.
Recorded by: Lori Owenby on 2016-06-29
Yancey Co.
Recorded by: J. A. Anderson on 2016-06-27
Yancey Co.
Recorded by: J. A. Anderson on 2016-06-27
Yancey Co.
Recorded by: J. A. Anderson on 2016-06-27
Yancey Co.