Moths of North Carolina
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238 NC Records

Megalopyge opercularis (J.E. Smith, 1797) - Southern Flannel Moth



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Taxonomy
Superfamily: Zygaenoidea Family: MegalopygidaeP3 Number: 660063.00 MONA Number: 4647.00
Species Status:
Identification
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONA, GBIF, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1923)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Wagner (2005)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: This is a heavy-bodied species with a furry head and thorax that is reddish-brown. The legs are also furry and reddish-brown, with prominent black tips. Both sexes possess a heavy, "furry", ocherous or reddish-brown body (Forbes, 1923). The broad forewing is ocherous on the basal two-thirds, and blends to pale yellow or creamy-white distally. Black smudging occurs along the basal two-thirds of the costa, and narrow, whitish, wavy rays radiating from the base. The wavy hairs across the basal half of the forewing impart a distinctive wrinkled or "woolly" appearance. This is especially obvious on the larger, typically less colorful females. Lagoa crispata is similar in size and shape to M. opercularis but the forewings are pale yellow rather than orange-brown as seen in the latter. In addition, M. opercularis tends to have more extensive black scaling on the tips of the legs.
Wingspan: 25-25 mm (Forbes, 1923).
Adult Structural Features: Males possess large pectinate antennae that are about one-half the length of the forewing. In Lagoa spp., the male antennae are about two-thirds the length of the forewing (Forbes, 1923). Forbes described the forelegs as blackish with white at the apex of the tibiae. In our specimens, the tarsi and metatarsi of all legs appear to be blackish, unlike those of L. crispata, which are black only on the metatarsi.
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: The larvae feed on the foliage of hardwood trees and shrubs. The unusual larva, known as the Puss Caterpillar, is covered by long, dense, gray to tan hairs, with a blunt anterior end that tapers to a narrow point posteriorly, giving it a vaguely mouse-like appearance. A rusty-red crest is often evident along the midline of the back. The body has short, toxic spines that are arranged in radiating clusters along the mid-dorsum and sides. According to Mullen and Zaspel (2019), the puss caterpillar causes the most painful and severe reactions among urticating species in the United States. Reactions typically include an initial burning sensation, commonly followed by numbness and occasional localized swelling, nausea, and vomiting. Reddened blotches or mottling develop at the contact site, and in some cases the entire limb from hand to shoulder can become swollen. Stings on the neck can be particularly severe. This is probably the most commonly encountered urticating caterpillar in North America. During outbreak years large numbers of people may be affected. One involved hundreds of children that resulted in the closing of public schools in Texas, and another was a widespread outbreak in Texas in which more than 2,100 cases were reported (Mullen and Zaspel, 2019).
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Megalopyge opercularis is primarily found in the southeastern US, Central America and northern South America. In the US, the range extends from eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey southward to southern Florida, and westward to central Texas, southeastern Oklahoma, and Arkansas. In North Carolina this species is widespread and common in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont. As of 2023, we have only a few records from the Blue Ridge and all are restricted to the southern 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
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 have been observed year-round at southern localities such as Florida and Texas where there are two or more generations. Populations in the northern part of the range most commonly fly from April through September. In North Carolina, local populations are univoltine. As of 2023, our records extend from early May through late-September, with a seasonal peak in June and July.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: We have records from a wide range of habitats in the state, including maritime forests and scrub, peatlands, Longleaf Pine savannas, flatwoods, sandhills, and dry slopes in the Piedmont and Blue Ridge. We have fewer records for this species from bottomland hardwoods and cool, mesic forests than we have for Lagoa crispata, suggesting that it prefers somewhat drier to xeric habitats than that species.
Larval Host Plants: The larvae are broadly polyphagous and feed on a variety of hardwood shrubs and trees (Craighead et al., 1950; Baker, 1972; Covell, 1984; Heppner, 2007; Robinson et al., 2010). The reported hosts include Florida Maple (Acer floridanum), Red Maple (A. rubrum), birches (Betula), Japanese Camellia (Camellia japonica), Pecan (Carya illinoinensis) and other hickories, Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata), Common Hackberry (C. occidentalis), Citrus, Common Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), English Ivy (Hedera helix), Hibiscus, Chinese Holly (Ilex cornuta), Japanese Holly (I. crenata), Yaupon Holly (I. vomitoria), Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), Sweetbay Magnolia (M. virginiana), apples (Malus), Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica), American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), Pyracantha, pears (Pyrus), Turkey Oak (Quercus laevis), Laurel Oak (Q. laurifolia), Water Oak (Q. nigra), Live Oak (Q. virginiana), roses (Rosa), Coastal Plain Willow (Salix caroliniana), Chinese Elm (Ulmus parviflora) and other elms. - View
Observation Methods: The species readily comes to lights. The adults have reduced mouthparts and presumably do not feed on flowers or sap.
Wikipedia
See also Habitat Account for General Forests and Shrublands
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G5 [S5]
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it in state parks and on other public lands.
Comments: Megalopyge opercularis occurs widely across the state, occupying a broad range of habitats, and utilizing a large set of host plants, including many that are common. Consequently, this species appears to be quite secure in North Carolina

 Photo Gallery for Megalopyge opercularis - Southern Flannel Moth

106 photos are available. Only the most recent 30 are shown.

Recorded by: Mark Basinger on 2024-07-14
Brunswick Co.
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Recorded by: Mark Basinger on 2024-07-14
Brunswick Co.
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Recorded by: Verna B on 2024-07-13
Orange Co.
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Recorded by: Mark Basinger on 2024-07-12
Brunswick Co.
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Recorded by: Mark Basinger on 2024-07-12
Brunswick Co.
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Recorded by: Mark Basinger on 2024-07-04
Wilson Co.
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Recorded by: R. Newman on 2024-06-30
Carteret Co.
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Recorded by: Erich Hofmann and Kayla Weinfurther on 2024-06-29
New Hanover Co.
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Recorded by: Erich Hofmann and Kayla Weinfurther on 2024-06-29
New Hanover Co.
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Recorded by: Mark Basinger on 2024-06-29
Rowan Co.
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Recorded by: Hunter Phillips on 2024-06-27
Onslow Co.
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Recorded by: Mark Basinger on 2024-06-19
Brunswick Co.
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Recorded by: Mark Basinger on 2024-06-19
Brunswick Co.
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Recorded by: Mark Basinger on 2024-06-13
Wilson Co.
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Recorded by: Mark Basinger on 2024-06-13
Wilson Co.
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Recorded by: R. Newman on 2024-06-12
Carteret Co.
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Recorded by: Stephen Dunn on 2023-09-22
Orange Co.
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Recorded by: Stephen Dunn on 2023-09-22
Orange Co.
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Recorded by: Ken Kneidel on 2023-09-19
Mecklenburg Co.
Comment: Living larva found on a Willow Oak.
Recorded by: Ken Kneidel on 2023-09-19
Mecklenburg Co.
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Recorded by: Ken Kneidel on 2023-09-19
Mecklenburg Co.
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Recorded by: David George on 2023-09-13
Durham Co.
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Recorded by: David George, Jeff Niznik on 2023-09-04
Orange Co.
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Recorded by: David George, Jeff Niznik on 2023-09-04
Orange Co.
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Recorded by: Stephen Dunn, Jeff Niznik on 2023-07-26
Chatham Co.
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Recorded by: Stephen Dunn, Jeff Niznik on 2023-07-26
Chatham Co.
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Recorded by: R. Spainhour on 2023-07-26
Surry Co.
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Recorded by: R. Newman on 2023-07-19
Carteret Co.
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Recorded by: Stephen Hall on 2023-07-16
Orange Co.
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Recorded by: Chuck Smith on 2023-07-16
Davidson Co.
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