Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFNoctuidae Members: 12 NC Records

Pyrrhia aurantiago (Guenée, 1852) - Orange Sallow


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Taxonomy
Superfamily: Noctuoidea Family: NoctuidaeSubfamily: HeliothinaeP3 Number: 932042.00 MONA Number: 11065.00 MONA Synonym: Rhodoecia aurantiago
Comments: One of three species in this genus that occur in North America (Lafontaine and Schmidt, 2010), all of which have been recorded in North Carolina. This species was previously included in the genus Rhodoecia, which was merged with Pyrrhia by Pogue (2008).
Identification
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984; as Rhodoecia aurantiago)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONA, GBIFTechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1954); Schweitzer et al. (2011)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Forbes (1954); Schweitzer et al. (2011); Wagner et al. (2011)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: A medium-sized Sun Moth. The ground color is dull orange to brown and variably shaded with purplish; the forewings of very fresh specimens can be completely overlain by reddish scales (Schweitzer et al., 2011). The postmedian is strongly dentate, unlike the smooth lines found in Pyrrhia cilisca and exprimens (Schweitzer et al., 2011). The spots in aurantiago are also purplish but are paler yellow or orange in the other species. Hindwings are yellowish at the base but shading into dull red outwardly (Forbes, 1954).
Wingspan: 27-33 mm (Forbes, 1954)
Adult Structural Features: The male valve is illustrated in Forbes (1954) and takes the form of an elongated club with a corona at the widened tip; valves of the other two species in this genus are similar.
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: The larvae are dark purplish gray, with a reticulated pattern above and vague, broad, dark bands on the dorsal and lateral surfaces; the substigmatal area is pale. The skin is covered with small granules and the head and leg plates are buff colored (Forbes, 1954; see also illustrations in Schweitzer et al., 2011, and Wagner et al., 2011). Larvae feed on the seeds and pods of its host plant. They pupate in the fall and usually overwinter until the following spring; although Schweitzer did not report any delayed emergence in the larvae he reared, Wyatt (1958) reported that pupae can remain dormant for up to three years before the adults emerge. Such behavior may be one adaptation to living in fire-maintained habitats or where other disturbances (e.g., deer browsing) may reduce habitat quality over short-term but unpredictable intervals.
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Our records come primarily from the southern half of the Coastal Plain, with Wray's historic record from the Low 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: Univoltine, with adults flying in late August and September
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Except for the one record from the Mountains, where the habitat was not recorded, our records all come from dry-to-xeric, sandy habitat in the Coastal Plain, including Pine-Scrub Oak Sandhills, Coastal Fringe Sandhills, and Maritime Forests.
Larval Host Plants: Stenophagous, feeding on species of Oak-leech (Aureolaria spp.). Based on the habitats used in North Carolina, Southern Oak-leech (Aureolaria pectinata) -- associated with Turkey Oak woodlands and other dry oak habitats -- seems the most likely species to be used in North Carolina, at least in the Coastal Plain.
Observation Methods: Comes to blacklights to some extent, but like other members of the Heliothinae, searches for larvae or adults resting on the flowers of their host plants may be the most effective way of finding this specie (Wagner et al., 2011).
Wikipedia
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status: SR
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G3G4 S1S3
State Protection: Listed as Significantly Rare by the Natural Heritage Program. That designation, however, does not confer any legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: This species is regarded as uncommon to rare throughout its range and is considered historic and possibly extirpated in several states where it once occurred (Schweitzer et al., 2011). In North Carolina, our records are sparsely distributed, but this species was recorded regularly at three sites, indicating it is a resident rather than a stray. Searches for larvae and adults resting on flowers needs to be done to better determine this species' actual distribution and conservation status. However, overbrowsing by deer and suppression of the natural fire regime have been strongly implicated in its decline elsewhere and are likely to be at work in our area as well. It may therefore be secure only on federal lands and state gamelands where a combination of prescribed burning and deer hunting may be maintaining habitat suitability.