Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFZygaenidae Members:
Neoprocris Members:
2 NC Records

Neoprocris floridana Tarmann, 1984 - Laurelcherry Smoky Moth

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Superfamily: Zygaenoidea Family: ZygaenidaeSubfamily: ProcridinaeP3 Number: 660080.00 MONA Number: 4631.20
Comments: Neoprocris floridana is one of only two species in this genus that occur in North America, and the only one that is found in North Carolina. Hall (2015) has an excellent detailed paper that covers the life history and ecology of this species, and is the basis for our species account.
Species Status: The larvae and adults of members of the Zygaenidae contain linamarin and lotaustralin, which are two compounds that can be taken in when the larvae feed on plants. These compounds can also be synthesized directly by some species. The compounds undergo enzymatic breakdown to release hydrogen cyanide (HCN) as a defense against predators (Hall, 2015). The toxic adults are frequently active during the day, and many are members of mimicry complexes.
Field Guide Descriptions: Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONA, GBIF, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Hall (2015)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Hall (2015)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: This is a medium-small moth with all body parts black, except for the abdomen and antennae that are black with an iridescent bright blue sheen (Hall, 2015). The antenna is bipectinate and tapers to a point, with the pectinations about twice as long in the males compared with the females. All of our other zygaenids -- including Harrisina americana and Acoloithus falsarius -- are similar but have yellow or orange markings on their thorax. Urodus parvula is also similar but has a smoky gray body and simple antennae.
Wingspan: 15-18 mm for males and 16-21 mm for females (Hall, 2015).
Immatures and Development: The larvae only feed on Carolina Laurel Cherry. The following life-history account is from Hall (2015) and is based on Florida populations that have three generations per year, with overwintering occurring in the pupal stage. The adults of the first seasonal generation emerge from overwintering pupae. The mated females lay large clusters of eggs on the undersides of young leaves near the leaf margins, and the hatchlings appear about 10 days later and skeletonize the leaf surfaces. The later instars switch from skeletonizing to feeding on leaf edges. When densities are high they may completely defoliate a branch or entire tree. The full-grown larvae spin cocoons on dead leaves in the litter beneath the host plants. The cocoons are flattened and oval-shaped, with the upper surface made of tough, densely spun silk. The larvae within cocoons secrete calcium oxalate monohydrate crystalline needles and incorporated these as small whitish clumps into the outer web-like layer of silk. The adults of the summer broods emerge soon after the larvae pupate and begin a new seasonal generation. Larvae from the final generation spin cocoons and pupate in leaf litter, and the pupae break winter diapause with the arrival of warmer spring weather.

The full-grown larvae are approximately 1.3 cm in length and are strongly patterned with black and white longitudinal stripes on the dorsal surface, and pale yellowish-white on the sides (see Hall, 2015 for a detailed description of the life stages). The dorsal, subdorsal, lateral and ventral areas have raise bumps that bear venomous setae.
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Neoprocris floridana is restricted to the southeastern US where it occurs from North Carolina southward to southern Florida and westward to Louisiana. As of 2023, our only record is from a single site in the Fall-line Sandhills.
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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Immature 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: The adults fly during most of the year in Florida except for the coldest winter months. Most other records from outside of Florida are for larvae, with a few adult records for April, May, October and November. As of 2023, our only site record for North Carolina is for larvae that were observed on two occasions.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Our sole site record for this species comes from a residential yard located in a fairly natural, xeric Longleaf Pine habitat in the Fall-line Sandhills.
Larval Host Plants: The larvae are monophagous and only feed on Carolina Laurel Cherry (Prunus caroliniana; Hall, 2015). - View
Observation Methods: The adults fly both during the day and night and occasionally visit flowers (Hall, 2015). Searching for larvae is probably the easiest way to document a population. The young instar larvae are leaf skeletonizers that strip the tissue off the underside of leaves, leaving translucent windows, while older larvae consume the entire leaf.
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: [GU SU]
State Protection:
Comments: The residency status of this species is unclear in North Carolina. The only known population was found in a yard where Carolina Laurel Cherry is common but its origin is uncertain. While native to North Carolina, Carolina Laurel Cherry is primarily found in maritime forests and sandy hummocks on the adjoining mainland; further inland it may be present mainly as an escape from cultivation (Weakley, 2015). It is possible, therefore, that the Moore County population could have been artificially introduced on cultivated plants transported from Florida. On the other hand, Hall (2015) speculates that Neoprocis is likely to turn up in other areas within its host plant's native range, which includes North Carolina. More surveys are needed to determine whether this species occurs in more purely natural areas within the state.

 Photo Gallery for Neoprocris floridana - Laurelcherry Smoky Moth

Photos: 3

Recorded by: Billy Hartness on 2015-10-28
Moore Co.
Recorded by: Billy Hartness on 2015-10-28
Moore Co.
Comment: Leaves showing feeding damage.
Recorded by: Billy Hartness on 2015-10-12
Moore Co.