Moths of North Carolina
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21 NC Records

Rhyacionia frustrana (Comstock, 1880) - Nantucket Pine Tip Moth

Superfamily: Tortricoidea Family: TortricidaeSubfamily: OlethreutinaeTribe: EucosminiP3 Number: 620710.00 MONA Number: 2882.00
Comments: The genus Rhyacionia is widespread in the Holarctic Region, ranging from Japan and Asia to the Caribbean Antilles and Mexico (Powell and Miller, 1978). There are 33 described species worldwide and 24 in North America. The larvae feed on the needles, buds, and growing tips of pines.
Species Status: Rhyacionia frustrana is a common pest of pine plantations throughout the eastern United States where is causes damage to developing buds and shoots. Larval feeding can cause shoot mortality and tree deformity.
Field Guide Descriptions: Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONA, GBIFTechnical Description, Adults: (Powell and Miller, 1978)Technical Description, Immature Stages: (Asaro et al., 2003)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: The following description is based in part on that of Powell and Miller (1978). The palps, front of the head, and crown are light frosted gray, while the dorsum of the thorax is similar but sometimes slightly darker. The basal one-fourth of the forewing is mottled with shades of gray and form a faint basal patch. The relatively dark basal patch is bordered by a lighter gray to pale cross-band that is less than one-half the width of the basal patch. The basal patch and cross-band are often separated by a narrow reddish or reddish brown fascia. A large reddish costal blotch typically borders the gray cross-band posteriorly and extends inward to around two-thirds. It sometimes continues to the inner margin to form a complete reddish cross-band. Between this and the apex there are a variable number of smaller blotches or irregular orange to rust bands that either partly or entirely cross the wing. The apex is often heavily dusted with reddish scales. The fringe is dark gray, and often has a black line extending around the termen. The hindwing is pale grayish brown with a paler fringe. The abdomen is shining light gray above, and the legs are gray with paler bands exteriorly. Powell and Miller (1978) noted that Rhyacionia aktita is externally similar to R. frustrana and is best identified by genitalia. In North Carolina, R. aktita appears to be restricted to sites close to the coast, while R. frustrana is well-represented in the Piedmont. Both species can co-occur locally along the coast, and genitalia are required to separate the two at coastal locales.
Forewing Length: 4.0 to 7.0 mm for males; 4.0 to 7.5 mm for females (Powell and Miller, 1978)
Adult Structural Features: Powell and Miller (1978) provide descriptions and illustrations of the male and female genitalia, which are distinctive.
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from photos showing hindwings, abdomen, or other specialized views [e.g., frons, palps, antennae, undersides].
Immatures and Development: The larvae feed on a variety of pines. Females lay eggs singly on needles and the first-instar larvae mine the needles. Second and third instars feed within needle or bud axils where they construct a silken tent that becomes covered in resin. The fourth and fifth instars feed within the buds and shoots, which causes the shoot to die (Asaro et al., 2003). The later instars are yellow to orange, and the mature larvae are 9-10 mm long. Pupation occurs within the dead shoots, where there can be as many as 17 pupae in a single shoot (typically less that five). Local populations have 2-6 broods per year depending on the latitude and elevation, and the pupae of the last generation overwinter in the dead shoots.

Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable only through rearing to adulthood.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Rhyacionia frustrana is found in eastern North America, central America, and the Caribbean. In the US it occurs from Massachusetts south to Florida, and westward to Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas (Asaro et al., 2003; Powell and Miller, 1978). An introduced population is also in southern California. As of 2021, all of our records are from the Coastal Plain and eastern Piedmont.
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: Local populations have two or more broods per year. The adults emergence from shoots containing over-wintering pupae beginning in late December or January in the southernmost portions of the range in the United States, and as late as April in northern regions. In the South, there are typically two generations in the mountainous regions of the Appalachians, three in the Piedmont, and four in the Coastal Plain (Asaro et al., 2003). As of 2021, our records extend from late February through early September.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: This species requires yellow pines for successful reproduction, and is found in both natural pine and mixed pine-hardwood forests, as well as tree farms and nurseries. Asaro et al. (2003) noted that pines that are less than five years old are most vulnerable to infection, and that populations tend to rapidly diminish as trees approach crown closure.
Larval Host Plants: The larvae use a wide variety of yellow pines (subgenus Pinus), including at least 19 species throughout its range (Asaro et al., 2003). The most common hosts in the Southeast include Shortleaf Pine (P. echinata), Slash Pine (P. elliotii), Table Mountain Pine (P. pungens), Pitch Pine (P. rigida), Pond Pine (P. serotina), Loblolly Pine (P. taeda) and Virginia Pine (P. virginiana). Asaro et al. (2003) noted that P. taeda, P. echinata, and P. virginiana are the most commonly used species in the Southeast.
Observation Methods: The adults are attracted to lights, and the larvae or pupae can be found in pine shoots.
See also Habitat Account for General Dry-Xeric Pine Forests and Woodlands
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: GNR [S4S5]
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: This species can be a pest in pine plantations and nurseries in the Southeast, and is presumed to be relatively secure within the state.

 Photo Gallery for Rhyacionia frustrana - Nantucket Pine Tip Moth

Photos: 9

Recorded by: John Petranka on 2023-03-06
Orange Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka, Steve Hall and Bo Sullivan on 2022-08-28
Moore Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka, Steve Hall and Bo Sullivan on 2022-08-28
Moore Co.
Recorded by: Stephen Hall on 2022-05-31
Orange Co.
Recorded by: Lior Carlson on 2021-07-24
Orange Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka, Bo Sullivan and Steve Hall on 2021-05-10
Moore Co.
Recorded by: L. M. Carlson on 2019-08-08
Orange Co.
Recorded by: Darryl Willis on 2016-06-03
Cabarrus Co.
Recorded by: Harry Wilson on 2011-02-27
Wake Co.