Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFAdelidae Members: 10 NC Records

Adela ridingsella Clemens, 1864 - Ridings' Fairy Moth

Superfamily: Incurvarioidea Family: AdelidaeSubfamily: AdelinaeTribe: [Adelini]P3 Number: 210118.00 MONA Number: 228.00
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: Although this attractive micromoth regularly appears at blacklights, remarkably little is known about its life history.
Field Guide Descriptions: Beadle and Leckie (2012)Online Photographs: MPG; BugGuide; BAMONATechnical Description, Adults: Clemens (1864), Powell (1969)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: This is a very distinctively patterned Adela that is difficult to confuse with other species. The forewing has a coppery brown ground color that is lighter on the apical half. At the anal angle there is a cluster of four or five relatively large black spots, each with an embossed silvery violet spot. A series of smaller spots occur along the apical margin. A silvery fascia is present at the middle of the wing. Just beyond this is an oblique, silvery costal streak that extends almost to the most interior and basal of the black spots. Beyond this streak is a second and much smaller streak that extends from the costa towards the outer margin. Between the two silvery streaks there are typically three or four rows of fine black patches or spots that radiate from near the tip of the first streak towards the outer margin. The hindwing is brownish-orange with a wide fringe. The males have extremely elongated antennae that are three times or more as long as the forewings, while females have antennae that are about one-half as long as those of the males (Powell, 1969).
Wingspan: 13-14 mm
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. ridingsella conforms to this general life history pattern is unknown.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Adela ridingsella is widespread in eastern North America. Populations have been documented from southern Canada (Nova Scotia; Ontario; Quebec) and the New England states westward to Illinois and Iowa, and southwestward to western North Carolina, northern Georgia, and Mississippi. This species appears to be rare or missing in most of the southeastern Piedmont and Coastal Plain. As of 2019, all of our records are 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: Most adults are on the wing from late May through July (Powell, 1969). As of 2019, our records are from 30 May to 19 June.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: The specific habitat requirements are unknown, but specimens have been collected in both hardwood forests and in suburban settings.
Larval Host Plants: The host plants are unknown. The fact that this species is restricted to the mountains in North Carolina might be related to it exploiting one or more plant species that also have mountain affinities.
Observation Methods: Most records are based on adults that were attracted to lights. Adults have occasionally been spotted resting on vegetation, but seem to visit flowers far less frequently than Adela caeruleella.
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: Although widespread in the eastern US, this species appears to be uncommon in North Carolina where it apparently is restricted to the mountains.

 Photo Gallery for Adela ridingsella - Ridings' Fairy Moth

Photos: 8

Recorded by: tom ward on 2021-06-17
Buncombe Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka on 2021-06-05
Madison Co.
Recorded by: tom ward on 2021-05-28
Buncombe Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2020-07-05
Madison Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2020-06-26
Buncombe Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2018-06-13
Madison Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2018-06-13
Madison Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2018-06-13
Madison Co.