Moths of North Carolina
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Common Name:
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Heliozela Members:
3 NC Records

Heliozela aesella Chambers, 1877 - No Common Name

Superfamily: Incurvarioidea Family: HeliozelidaeSubfamily: [Heliozelinae]Tribe: [Heliozelini]P3 Number: 210072.00 MONA Number: 230.00
Comments: The Heliozelidae is a family of minute moths that are found worldwide except for Antarctica. Most are diurnally active, and many have iridescent, metallic shining scales, including shiny, overlapping, lamellar head scales that help define the group. The larvae of most mine the leaves, stems, and petioles of plants. There are only two described species of Heliozela in North America, and only one in North Carolina.
Field Guide Descriptions: Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONA, GBIF, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Chambers, 1877                                                                                 
Adult Markings: The head, thorax, antennae, and upper abdomen have a rich brown ground color with a bronze metallic sheen. There are two conspicuous white marks on the forewing that originate on the inner margin. From there, they narrow as they extend inward to about the middle of the wing. The first is near the base of the wing, projects slightly rearward, and tends to be more elongated and less triangular than the second. The second occurs near the anal angle, is triangular-shaped, and also projects slightly rearward with the basal edge sometimes noticeably curved. The hindwing is pale fuscous and the cilia grayish fuscous (Chambers, 1877).
Adult Structural Features: The larvae of this species retain fully-developed thoracic legs, which is very unusual among the Heliozelidae.
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: The females typically oviposit in major veins of the leaves. The larvae form pale green, spongy, blotchlike galls that are raised and centered on the veins (Eiseman, 2019). It is not uncommon for a single leaf to have five or more galls. Each larva forms a frass-filled channel in the gall as it feeds. When mature, the larva encloses itself inside a case composed of frass and silk. It then cuts out leaf material to produce a shield that covers the case. The larva then drops to the ground with its case and overwinters in the soil. Pupation and adult emergence occur the following spring. The adults are diurnal and have been observed flying near the ground in deciduous forests on warm days during the spring months (
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Heliozela aesella has been found in Ontario, Canada and in portions of the eastern United States. It appears to be widespread and relatively common along a broad swath that extends from Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio eastward to the New England states. From there, populations occurs sporadically south and southwestward to Virginia and North Carolina, with isolated populations in Georgia, Alabama and east Texas. As of 2019, we have one record from the Coastal Plain and one from the eastern Piedmont.
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: Local populations are univoltine and the adults are active after the spring leaf-out of grapes, typically in April and May. As of 2019, our records are from April and May.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: This species is strongly affiliated with native grapes, which occupy a variety of forest, forest-edge, and disturbed habitats. Grapes do not reproduce well in heavy shade and generally require forest gaps, or disturbance from fire, logging, or storm damage for seed germination. Representative habitats include roadsides, fence rows, forest edges, and river banks, as well as hardwood and mixed pine-hardwood forests.
Larval Host Plants: Native grapes (Vitis spp.) are the primary hosts, including Frost Grape (V. vulpina). Eiseman (1019) noted that the galls are sometimes formed in the shoots, petioles, and peduncles of Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), although there appear to be very few documented records of H. aesella using Parthenocissus. - View
Observation Methods: The adults are attracted to lights, and are often seen in woodland habitats where they fly low to the ground during the day. The raised galls are conspicuous on the lower surface of grape leaves, and provide an easy way to document local populations.
See also Habitat Account for General Vitaceous Tangles
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: GNR S1S3
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: We currently do not have sufficient data to assess the status of this species within the state.

 Photo Gallery for Heliozela aesella - No common name

Photos: 3

Recorded by: David George, Jeff Niznik on 2024-04-01
Chatham Co.
Recorded by: T. DeSantis on 2015-04-13
Durham Co.
Recorded by: T. DeSantis on 2013-05-09
Camden Co.