Moths of North Carolina
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10 NC Records

Menesta melanella Murtfeldt, 1890 - No Common Name

Superfamily: Gelechioidea Family: DepressariidaeSubfamily: StenomatinaeTribe: [Stenomatini]P3 Number: 420250.00 MONA Number: 1031.00
Comments: This is one of only two species of Menesta that occur north of Mexico, and both occur in the eastern US.
Field Guide Descriptions: Leckie and Beadle (2018).Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONA, GBIF, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Duckworth (1964), Murtfeldt (1890).Technical Description, Immature Stages: Murtfeldt (1890), Eiseman (2019).                                                                                  
Adult Markings: Adults are readily identified by the conspicuous whitish triangular mark that occurs about midway on the costa of each forewing. A small white dot occurs near the tip of each triangular mark. The fringe on the outer margin is whitish, and the legs are predominantly white and contrast with the shiny black ground color. M. tortriciformella is somewhat similar, but lacks the triangular marks on the forewings.
Wingspan: 10-12 mm (Duckworth, 1964)
Adult Structural Features: The genitalia are described and illustrated by Duckworth (1964).
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: The only detailed description of larval development is by Murtfeldt (1890) in Missouri, where larvae first appeared on Post Oak (Quercus stellata) in late summer and required about a month to mature. Hatchlings begin as leafminers, then switch early in development to feeding externally on the undersurfaces of the leaves. The older larvae skeletonize leaf surfaces beneath protective webs that are densely woven, thickest near the middle, and attenuated near the ends. Frass is ejected from the web. Just prior to pupating, late-instar larvae thicken the densest parts of their feeding webs. Each larva then cuts out a broad oval section around the densest part of the web that is about 13 mm long. The cut edges are bound together and the entire structure in dragged away from the injured part of the leaf and suspended from the underside of the leaf by a broad band of silk. The larvae pupate within these structures and overwinter until the following year when the adults emerge. Full-grown larvae are about 8 mm long, and are dingy, translucent white with a small head that is about one-half the diameter of the first thoracic segment. See Eiseman (2019) and Marquis et al. (2019) for images of the larvae and webbing.
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Menesta melanella is primarily found in the southeastern US, with northern isolates in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Ontario. This species likely occurs statewide where suitable host plants are present. As of 2020, most of our records are from the Coastal Plain and eastern Piedmont, with one record from a low-elevation site in the mountains.
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: We have only a few records for NC. Based on records from here and nearby states, the flight period likely extends from June though August.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: The larvae are most commonly found on two species of oaks that are associated with dry, upland forests or xeric habitats such as sandhills, south-facing slopes, dry ridges and rocky bluffs.
Larval Host Plants: This species is a specialist on oaks. Post Oak (Q. stellata) and Black Oak (Q. velutina) appear to be important primary hosts (Murtfeldt, 1890; Duckworth 1964; Marquis et al., 2019). Other documented hosts include White Oak (Q. alba), Bear Oak (Q. ilicifolia), Chestnut Oak (Q. montana), Chinquapin Oak (Q. muehlenbergii). Scrub Oak is rare in NC and is presumed to be an insignificant food source. - View
Observation Methods: Adults are attracted to blacklights.
See also Habitat Account for General Dry-Xeric Hardwood Forests
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: [GNR] S3S4
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: We have only a few records for NC as of 2019 even though the host plants are relatively abundant within the state. This species appears to be generally uncommon throughout its range, with most states having fewer than 10 records.

 Photo Gallery for Menesta melanella - No common name

Photos: 10

Recorded by: David George, Stephen Dunn, Jeff Niznik, Rich Teper, Becky Watkins on 2023-07-29
Swain Co.
Recorded by: Rob Van Epps on 2023-07-19
Mecklenburg Co.
Recorded by: Rob Van Epps on 2023-07-19
Mecklenburg Co.
Recorded by: Mark Shields on 2020-07-10
Onslow Co.
Recorded by: Darryl Willis on 2019-07-24
Cabarrus Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2019-07-22
Madison Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2019-07-22
Madison Co.
Recorded by: Mark Shields on 2019-07-07
Onslow Co.
Recorded by: Julie Tuttle on 2018-07-08
Chatham Co.
Recorded by: B. Bockhahn on 2014-06-04
Moore Co.