Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFChoreutidae Members: 20 NC Records

Brenthia pavonacella Clemens, 1860 - Peacock Brenthia Moth



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Taxonomy
Superfamily: Choreutoidea Family: ChoreutidaeSubfamily: ChoreutinaeTribe: [Choreutini]P3 Number: 580002.00 MONA Number: 2627.00
Comments: Brenthia is a cosmopolitan genus with more than 80 described species and perhaps an even greater number of undescribed species (Rota, 2008). Most species are specialists that feed on a single genus of plants. Brenthia pavonacella is the only member of the genus found in North America north of Mexico.
Species Status: The adults of B. pavonacella mimic predatory jumping spiders (Rota and Wagner 2006). During the day the moths perch on the upper surfaces of vegetation. They posture with the hindwings fanned outwards and brought forward, and with the forewings raised and held above the body at approximately a 45° angle. In this position, the alternating white and black fascia on the hindwings are reminiscent of jumping spider legs. The moths move with short, rapid, jerky motions that also resemble jumping spider movements. When paired with spiders of similar size in a laboratory experiment, Rota and Wagner (2006) found that a spider often confused the moth for another territorial spider and engaged in territorial displays. Many were intimidated and backed away from the moth. The Brenthia experienced very high survival relative to controls that were similar size, but from a different genus.
Identification
Field Guide Descriptions: Leckie and Beadle (2018)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONATechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1923)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Rota (2008)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: This is a very small and distinctive moth, particularly when seen alive with its unusual posturing behavior. The following description is based in part on that of Forbes (1923). The lower part of the face is pale, and the labial palp is white with three fuscous rings. The antenna is barred above. The forewing is fuscous and mottled with whitish scales, especially about the middle. There is a broad black sub-terminal band that has a streak of bright iridescent scales that is often broken into two or more spots. Beyond this is a narrow light brown band that meets a dark band on the fringe. The apex of the fringe is light tan to whitish. The hindwing is grayish to fuscous and lacks whitish dusting. There are three or more whitish streaks. The most conspicuous include an elliptical streak near the base, an elongated, inwardly oblique, triangular streak about mid-way along the inner margin, and a more prominent streak in the subterminal region. The fringe is gray with three large whitish blotches along its length. The abdomen is brown with whitish barring, while the legs are whitish with darker banding on the tibias.
Wingspan: 8 mm (Forbes, 1923)
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: The larvae characteristically skeletonize the underside of leaves. They create a thin, loose web over the feeding area that has fecal pellets that are trapped by the webbing. The larva chews an escape hole within the feeding shelter that allows it to escape to the opposite side of the leaf if attacked by a predator or parasitoid. It typically rests with its head next to the hole. If disturbed, it dashes rapidly through the wormhole to the opposite side. After a while, it will wriggle through the hole back to its original position on the underside of the leaf (Rota, 2008). The larvae typically use tick-trefoils as hosts. The early instars cause damage that somewhat resembles "hopper burn" (i.e., the piercing-sucking feeding damage of some leafhoppers), but eventually large patches of the leaf are removed, so that only the leaf veins remain intact in the area of feeding (Microleps.org). The cocoons are often spun on the leaf. The complex architecture consists of the cocoon proper, which is white, fusiform, and composed of multiple layers of thick silk. This is covered by a much wider silken layer that forms a protective sheet over the cocoon (Rota, 2008). The pupal exuvium is protruded from the cocoon at the time of adult eclosion (Microleps.org).
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Brenthia pavonacella is found in the eastern US and adjoining areas of Tamaulipas, Mexico (Heppner, 1985a). The range extends from New York and vicinity southward to Georgia, Florida and Alabama, and westward to Texas, Oklahoma, Illinois, and Minnesota. There are numerous records of this species occurring in the Neotropics, but they appear to be cryptic species that closely resemble B. pavonacella (Rota, 2008; Heppner, 1985). This species can be found statewide in North Carolina in areas where the host plants occur locally.
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: Adults are active from March through September in areas outside of North Carolina, with a peak in activity from May through September. As of 2020, our records extend from late April through early August. Local populations appear to be single brooded in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont, and possibly double brooded in the mountains.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Populations appear to strongly dependent on tick-trefoils as hosts. Many of these species prefer partially shaded habitats such as open woods, woodland pathways and roadsides, old fields, and pine savannas.
Larval Host Plants: Tick-trefoils (Desmodium and Hylodesmum spp.) are believed to be the primary hosts (Rota, 2008), but the specific species that are used are largely undocumented. Forbes (1923) also listed Hog Peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata) as a host. Other listed hosts from tropical locations (Robinson et al., 2011) probably are for other Brenthia species that were mistaken for B. pavonacella.
Observation Methods: The adults are attracted to lights. They are also active during the day and can be spotted resting on foliage near the host plants.
Wikipedia
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 currently do not have sufficient information on the distribution and abundance of this species to assess its conservation status.

 Photo Gallery for Brenthia pavonacella - Peacock Brenthia Moth

Photos: 15

Recorded by: tom ward on 2021-07-20
Buncombe Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2019-07-27
Madison Co.
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Recorded by: Nancy Lee Adamson on 2019-04-25
Haywood Co.
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Recorded by: Nancy Lee Adamson on 2019-04-25
Haywood Co.
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Recorded by: B. Bockhahn on 2018-08-19
Durham Co.
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Recorded by: Harry Wilson on 2018-08-10
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Harry Wilson on 2018-08-10
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: B. Bockhahn on 2018-07-25
Orange Co.
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Recorded by: B. Bockhahn on 2018-07-25
Orange Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2018-07-21
Madison Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2018-07-21
Madison Co.
Comment: A rear view of the flared wings that are used to mimic jumping spiders.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2018-07-21
Madison Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2018-07-21
Madison Co.
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Recorded by: Parker Backstrom on 2017-08-08
Chatham Co.
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Recorded by: F. Williams, S. Williams on 2015-05-14
Wilkes Co.
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