Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFGracillariidae Members:
Caloptilia Members:
11 NC Records

Caloptilia sassafrasella (Chambers, 1876) - Sassafras Caloptilia Moth

Superfamily: Gracillarioidea Family: GracillariidaeSubfamily: GracillariinaeTribe: [Gracillariini]P3 Number: 330155.00 MONA Number: 633.00
Comments: Caloptilia is a large genus with nearly 300 described species; 64 species have been described in North America north of Mexico. The larvae begin as leaf-mining sap-feeders, but the latter instars usually exit the mines and feed within a conical roll that begins at the leaf apex or at the tip of a leaf lobe.
Field Guide Descriptions: Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONA, GBIF                                                                                 
Adult Markings: The head, face, palps, and wings are all rather uniformly brown with a yellowish tinge. Two conspicuous dark spots occur on the costa -- one midway, and the other just before the apex. The femur and tibia of the front and middle leg are dark, while the tarsi are white with faint dots at the tarsal junctions. The rear leg is light tan with darker marks at the tarsal joints. This species resembles C. rhoifoliella, but the face and palps are dark, compared with the whitish face and palps of C. rhoifoliella. The two conspicuous dark costal spots also help distinguish this species from C. rhoifoliella. The forewings of Caloptilia sassafrasella are noticeably narrower than those of other Caloptilia species, which can be useful in identifying specimens.
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Caloptilia sassafrasella occurs throughout much of the eastern US and southern Ontario. Our records for North Carolina are from the Blue Ridge and Piedmont, but this species likely occurs in the Coastal Plain as well since Sassafras occurs statewide.
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: This species is multivoltine. In North Carolina the adults become active following the spring leaf-out and can be found through November or early December.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Caloptilia sassafrasella is strongly associated with Sassafras albidum, which is the host species. Sassafras occurs in a wide variety of habitats in North Carolina. It is often an early successional species that occurs in old fields, field edges, roadsides and recently timbered sites. However, it also thrives in a variety of mesic or sub-mesic forest communities such as pine-oak forests or oak-hickory forests, particularly during early to mid-successional stages.
Larval Host Plants: Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) is the only known host for this species (Eiseman, 2019; Robinson et al. 2010)
Observation Methods: Adults are attracted to UV lights, and the larvae can be found by searching Sassafras leaves for the blotch mines or curled leaf shelters.
See also Habitat Account for Laurel Shrublands
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: GNR S3S5
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.

 Photo Gallery for Caloptilia sassafrasella - Sassafras Caloptilia Moth

Photos: 10

Recorded by: Simpson Eason on 2022-03-23
Durham Co.
Recorded by: Mark Shields on 2020-10-30
Onslow Co.
Recorded by: Kyle Kittelberger, Brian Bockhahn on 2020-06-02
Alleghany Co.
Recorded by: Mark Shields on 2020-03-30
Onslow Co.
Recorded by: Mark Shields on 2020-03-13
Onslow Co.
Recorded by: B. Bockhahn, K. Kittelberger, P. Scharf on 2015-06-18
Avery Co.
Recorded by: Kyle Kittelberger, Brian Bockhahn on 2015-06-18
Avery Co.
Recorded by: Harry Wilson on 2014-04-04
Wake Co.
Recorded by: T. DeSantis on 2013-12-06
Durham Co.
Recorded by: Paul Scharf on 2011-09-26
Warren Co.