Moths of North Carolina
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Common Name:
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Ethmia Members:
7 NC Records

Ethmia trifurcella (Chambers, 1873) - No Common Name

Superfamily: Gelechioidea Family: DepressariidaeSubfamily: EthmiinaeTribe: [Ethmiini]P3 Number: 420215.00 MONA Number: 1003.00
Comments: Ethmia is a large genus of small moths, with over 125 species occurring in the New World, and around 240 species worldwide. North America has 52 species, but only five occur east of the Mississippi River (Powell, 1973).
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONA, GBIF, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Powell, 1973Technical Description, Immature Stages: Powell, 1973                                                                                 
Adult Markings: The following description is based primarily on Powell (1973). The labial palps barely extend beyond the base of the antenna and are white with three dark bands or rings; one at the base, one about mid-way, and one at the tip. The antenna is dark gray except for the white base of the scape. The front of the face and crown are white, while the occipital tufts are narrowly to broadly dark. The thorax is white with five dark brown to blackish spots in the median and posterior portions. The forewing has a wavy longitudinal white band that
extends the entire length of the wing, and has a single dark spot at about the basal one-third of the wing length. The costal half of the forewing is dark brown or blackish and becomes paler towards the costa. The light region near the costa becomes more extensive posteriorly. There is a row of dark dots that extends around the margin from before the apex to the tornus. The fringe is white except for brownish coloration that adjoins the dark median streak of the terminal area. The hindwing is narrower than the forewing, with a pale brownish ground color that slightly darkens distally. The legs are heavily blotched with brownish black, particularly on the front and middle legs. This is a distinctive species that is easily recognized by the spot pattern on the thorax and wings, and the wavy, two-toned patterning.
Forewing Length: 8.7-9.1 mm for females; 7.6-9.8 mm for males.
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: Very little is known about the larval life history. Braun observed caterpillars on Wild Comfrey in July in Ohio and Kentucky and reared the adults (Powell, 1973). The larvae formed tubular shelters on the undersides of the leaves and fed on the leaves.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Ethmia trifurcella is primarily found in the eastern US, but a few scattered populations have been found as far west as Wyoming, and as far south as Arizona, southern Texas, and Mexico. The southwestern records could potentially represent an undescribed species. In the eastern US, the range extends from Ohio and Pennsylvania westward to Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas, and south and southwestward to Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and northern Florida. As of 2020, we only have a single recent site record (Madison County). Powell (1973) reported an historical record from Maxton in the Coastal Plain, but it is uncertain where the specimen is located.
County Map: Clicking on a county returns the records for the species in that county.
Flight Dates:
 High Mountains (HM) ‚Č• 4,000 ft.
 Low Mountains (LM) < 4,000 ft.
 Piedmont (Pd)
 Coastal Plain (CP)

Click on graph to enlarge
Flight Comments: Most local populations are probably univoltine, with the adults on the wing between April and July. As of 2020, our three records from Madison County were from mid-May through the third week of June.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: The only known host is Wild Comfrey, which is found in mesic hardwood or mixed hardwood forests. As of 2020, our only records are from mixed hardwood forest at a lower elevation site in the mountains that supports Wild Comfrey.
Larval Host Plants: The only known host is Wild Comfrey (Andersonglossum virginianum), which was previously placed in the genus Cynoglossum. - View
Observation Methods: The adults occasionally visit lights. Data on the larval ecology is sorely needed, so we encourage nature enthusiasts to search for the larvae.
See also Habitat Account for General Mesic Hardwood Forests
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: GNR S2S3
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 rare in North Carolina, with only a single recent site record. Additional data are needed before we can fully assess its conservation status.

 Photo Gallery for Ethmia trifurcella - No common name

Photos: 7

Recorded by: Richard Teper on 2022-06-05
Orange Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka on 2021-06-26
Madison Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka on 2021-06-26
Madison Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2020-06-22
Madison Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2019-05-17
Madison Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2019-05-17
Madison Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2018-06-23
Madison Co.