Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFAdelidae Members: 18 NC Records

Adela caeruleella Walker, 1863 - Southern Longhorn Moth



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Taxonomy
Superfamily: Incurvarioidea Family: AdelidaeSubfamily: AdelinaeTribe: [Adelini]P3 Number: 210117.00 MONA Number: 227.00
Comments: Adela is a small genus of moths, and most are noteworthy for having exceptionally long antennae. There are 11 described species in North America.
Species Status: The Southern Longhorn Moth is diurnally active and is often seen on warm, spring days nectaring on spring wildflowers.
Identification
Field Guide Descriptions: Leckie and Beadle, 2018.Online Photographs: MPG; BugGuide; BAMONA.Technical Description, Adults: Powell (1969)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Powell (1969)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: Adela caeruleella is easy to recognize based on the very elongated antenna, and a mixture of purplish, bronzy or greenish-purple coloration on the thorax and forewing. The upper head is reddish tan, and three indistinct metallic reddish striae are usually evident on the apical third of the wing. The males have an extremely long antenna that is three times or more as long as the forewing and darker near the base. Females have a shorter antenna (about 1.5 times the length of the forewing), with a thick layer of purplish black scales on the basal half that contrasts with the lighter and thinner apical half.
Adult Structural Features: Powell (1969) found that the 11 North American species of Adela have nearly identical male and female genitalia that have little value as taxonomic characters. Fortunately, all of the eastern species can be readily identified using color patterning.
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: The larval life history is unknown, as is the case for many Adela species. Powell (1969) noted that the females of some species deposit their eggs into young seeds and the larvae eat the developing seed tissue. After a period of growth, the larvae then descend to the ground where they construct cases and feed on either the lower parts of plants or their fallen leaves. They then overwinter as larvae or pupae within their cases. The extent to which A. caeruleella conforms to this general life history pattern is unknown.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Adela caeruleella is widespread in eastern North America from southern Quebec, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, south and southwestward to northern Florida, the Gulf Coast states, and central Texas. It is apparently absent from most of the Mississippi Valley and New England and vicinity. This species occurs statewide in North Carolina.
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: Local populations are univoltine. The adults are generally on the wing during the bloom of spring wildflowers, typically during March in Florida, and from April through June as one progresses further north. As of 2019, records for North Carolina are from mid-April in the Coastal Plain to June in the higher elevations of the Blue Ridge. A large mating aggregation was observed in Craven County on April 11, 2022 by J.B. Sullivan (see comments under Observation Methods).
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: The habitats are poorly documented and include both urban areas and relatively intact forested sites.
Larval Host Plants: The life history of the larval stages is unknown, as are the host plants. The adults have been found nectaring on a variety of vascular plants, including members of the Apiaceae, Asteraceae, and an assortment of other families. However, it is uncertain whether these are used as host plants for the larvae.
Observation Methods: The adults are attracted to lights. They also visit flowers on warm spring days, and are commonly encountered resting on woodland vegetation. They sometimes aggregate on wildflowers, particularly members of the Apiaceae and Asteraceae, where it is not uncommon to find two or more adults on the same inflorescence. The following observations of a mating aggregation were made by J.B. Sullivan on April 11, 2022: "It was 11:45am along a trail and centered on a small American Holly shrub about 2-3’ high. A female Adela caeruleella was perched on the end inch of a low Holly leaf about 8 inches above the ground. She remained motionless as 8-10 males flew all over the Holly with their antennae waving during flight. Occasionally they would light on her leaf but never appeared to approach her. They were in constant motion, rarely perching and if so rarely for long. I had no net so captured the female in a plastic vial. Once removed, males consistently lit briefly on her leaf as if they “remembered” where she was. One male was also captured but they were in constant movement and trying to collect another individual seemed very unlikely. They continued to swarm the shrub after I left. The Holly may have been used only because it was in sunlight."
Wikipedia
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: GNR [S4]
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: This species is seemingly secure in North Carolina with scattered records across the state.

 Photo Gallery for Adela caeruleella - Southern Longhorn Moth

Photos: 12

Recorded by: Jim Petranka on 2021-05-15
Madison Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka on 2021-05-15
Madison Co.
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Recorded by: Nancy Lee Adamson on 2020-04-19
Chatham Co.
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Recorded by: Nancy Lee Adamson on 2020-04-19
Chatham Co.
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Recorded by: Nancy Lee Adamson on 2020-04-19
Chatham Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2018-05-18
Madison Co.
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Recorded by: T. DeSantis on 2016-05-16
Orange Co.
Comment: Female
Recorded by: B. Bockhahn, K. Kittelberger, P. Scharf on 2015-06-17
Caldwell Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Hall and Ed Corey on 2015-05-16
Alleghany Co.
Comment: Male
Recorded by: T. Nergart, ID confirmed by T. Desantis. on 2015-05-15
Transylvania Co.
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Recorded by: T. Nergart, ID confirmed by T. Desantis. on 2015-05-15
Transylvania Co.
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Recorded by: T. DeSantis on 2010-05-13
Camden Co.
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