Moths of North Carolina
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Symmetrischema Members:
1 NC Records

Symmetrischema lavernella (Chambers, 1874) - No Common Name

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Superfamily: Gelechioidea Family: GelechiidaeSubfamily: GelechiinaeTribe: GnorimoscheminiP3 Number: 421327.00 MONA Number: 2035.00
Field Guide Descriptions: Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONA, GBIF, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Chambers (1875b)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Roulston et al. (2017)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: The following description is based in part on that of Chambers (1875b). The head and thorax are dark shining-brown, and the antenna is ocherous with dark brown annulations. The second joint of the labial palp is a mixture of ocherous and brown. The third joint is light brown with two darker annuli, one before the middle and one before its tip. The forewing is ocherous and mottled with brown to blackish spots and flecks. In the costal half of the wing, and running nearly parallel to the costa, are three black streaks in a line with each other. The first and shortest is before the middle, the second and longest begins about the middle, and the third is before the apex. The cilia of both wings are ocherous-gray, and the hindwing is grayish to ocherous. The abdomen is yellow, and the anal tuft suffused with pale-reddish. The legs are marked with pale and fuscous bands. This species is variable in patterning. The three dark streaks on the apical half of the forewing are perhaps the best marks for identifying the adults. Other than genitalia or barcoding, rearing from the host plants is the best way to get a definitive identification.
Immatures and Development: The larvae feed on ground-cherries and have two feeding strategies that often occur on the same plant. Some larvae feed on and then pupate within a single developing fruit, while others feed on and pupate within a single unopened floral bud (Roulston et al., 2017). Females lay single eggs towards the top of the plant on small flower buds, pedicels, stems, and upper leaves. The hatchings then make their way to the buds or flowers where they begin feeding. Roulston et al. (2017) found that larvae that enter buds consume the immature ovary, anthers, and some petal tissue before fastening the calyx lobes with cocoon threads and pupating inside the consumed bud. The second feeding mode involved larvae that enter a bud or open flower, then chew through the ovary wall near the connecting point of the style. From there, they descend the ovary and feed on developing ovules. Most or all of the ovules are destroyed without developing into seeds. At the end of feeding, the caterpillar chews a narrow round exit hole near the bottom of the ovary and often another hole through the inflated calyx. It then returns to the hollow fruit to pupate, with the cocoon threads plugging the exit hole. The emerging adult vacates through the chewed exit hole. An unusual finding of this study is that larvae that enter ovaries trigger fruit formation in the absence of pollination. The larvae of another ground cherry specialist, Chloridea subflexa, caused significant larval mortality by consuming both the fruits and S. lavernella larvae that are inside. The older larvae are dull white to yellowish white with dark brown head capsules.
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Symmetrischema lavernella is widespread in the eastern US, but is restricted to sites where ground cherries are present locally. Scattered records are known from Maine, Michigan, Illinois, Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas.
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)

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Flight Comments: The adults have been found from March through September in areas outside of North Carolina, with a seasonal peak in May and June. As of 2021, we have a single record from the coast that is undated.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: This species is dependent on ground cherries. Clammy Ground-cherry is one of the most important hosts and is found in open woods, woodland borders, and other partially shady habitats.
Larval Host Plants: This species is a specialist on ground cherries (Roulston et al., 2017). The known hosts include Ivyleaf Ground-cherry (Physalis hederifolia), Clammy Ground-cherry (P. heterophylla), Longleaf Ground-cherry (P. longifolia), and Yellow Ground-cherry (P. viscosa).
Observation Methods: The adults appear to rarely visit lights and are best obtained by rearing them from larvae collected from ground-cherry fruits or buds.
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: We have only one record for this species, which may reflect undercollecting within the state. We need additional information on its distribution and abundance before we can assess its conservation status.