Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFGeometridae Members: 10 NC Records

Iridopsis cypressaria (Grossbeck, 1917) - Small Cypress Looper


Taxonomy
Superfamily: Geometroidea Family: GeometridaeSubfamily: EnnominaeTribe: BoarmiiniP3 Number: 910989.00 MONA Number: 6571.00 MONA Synonym: Anacamptodes cypressaria
Comments: One of 20 species in this genus that occur in North America north of Mexico, seven of which have been recorded in North Carolina. In Rindge's 1966 revision of this group, 18 were placed in Anacamptodes, which he recognized as possibly representing the same genus as Iridopsis, and two in Iridopsis itself. Iridopsis cypressaria has apparently been confused with Glena plumosaria in the past, including by Forbes (1948), who included Anacamptodes plumosaria in his key -- referring to the type specimens of cypressaria -- but also mentioning other records outside the range of cypressaria and describing characters more consistent with G. plumosaria (see Rindge, 1966, for more information).
Identification
Field Guide Descriptions: Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONATechnical Description, Adults: Grossbeck (1917); Rindge (1966); Schweitzer et al. (2011)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: The smallest member of Iridopsis in our area. The body and ground color of the wings is pale tan or brownish gray, with the lines and spots marked with darker brown. The discal spots are usually a solid brown on both sets of wings, although with a trace of paler filling in some individuals; this contrasts with the more open, ringed spots found in other members of this genus. The antemedian is usually diffuse or absent (visible in most of our specimens) on the forewing and completely missing on the hindwing. A thin median shade runs from discal spot to the inner margin of the forewing in most of our specimens and the corresponding line on the hindwing is typically the most heavily marked feature on the wings (Rindge, 1966). The postmedian is also usually distinct, again more heavily marked on the hindwing. As in other members of this genus, the postmedian on the forewing is excurved at the end of the cell and somewhat undulating below that point, usually much less so than in other species of Iridopsis -- lacking a bulge at C2 -- but less straight than in Glena plumosaria.
Adult Structural Features: The antennae of the male are broadly pectinate, more so than other members of this genus (Rindge, 1966), but similar to those of Glena plumosaria. A dark ring may be present at the base of the first abdominal segment, but is not followed by a paler band and is Iridopsis pergracilis or some of the other members of Iridopsis. The sacculus of the males is distinctive (Rindge, 1966): shorter than in the other members of this genus and terminating in a broad point rather than a narrower hook. Females can also be diagnosed based on their genitalia (see key provided by Rindge, 1966).
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from photos showing hindwings, abdomen, or other specialized views [e.g., frons, palps, antennae, undersides].
Immatures and Development: Apparently undescribed (Schweitzer et al., 2011)
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Apparently restricted to cypress-containing habitats in the Coastal Plain, including the Fall-line Sandhills, but not recorded in stands of cypress located above the fall-line along the Tar River
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: Flies from early spring to summer, with most records in June. Too little data are currently available to determine whether there are separate flights in North Carolina
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: All of our records come from cypress-containing habitats, but range from Cypress Savannas, Non-riverine Swamp Forests, Tidal Cypress-gum Swamps, and riverine Cypress-Gum Swamp Forests. The majority of our records come from non-riverine sites, however, and we have none from sites in deeply flooded swamps, in contrast to Iridopsis pergracilis, for which we have a number of records from such sites. This may indicate that cypressaria may be less adapted to frequent or prolonged periods of flooding than pergracilis, but more needs to be learned about its developmental stages before the full story can be known.
Larval Host Plants: Presumed to feed on cypress (Taxodium spp.) based on the habitats where it has been recorded. In North Carolina, it has been found in areas where either Bald Cypress (T. distichum) or Pond Cypress (T. ascendens) were present but not both, suggesting that both species could be used. On the other hand, other trees commonly found in association with cypresses -- e.g., Swamp Blackgum or Water Tupelo -- do not occur at all sites where I. cypressaria has been observed, suggesting that they are not likely used as host plants.
Observation Methods: Comes well to blacklights, sometimes abundantly
Wikipedia
See also Habitat Account for Cypress Swamps and Savannas
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status: SR
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: GU S2S3
State Protection: Listed as Significantly Rare by the Natural Heritage Program. That designation, however, does not confer any legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: Although this species has been known to be locally abundant since it was first described, it has also been considered to be very sparsely distributed throughout its range, with many areas of apparently suitable habitat unoccupied. This contrasts markedly with other cypress-feeding species, which are found in the majority of cypress habitats that we have sampled, or, in the case of Macaria aequiferaria, in nearly every sample we have taken in these habitats. In North Carolina, we have found Iridopsis cypressaria in only 10 out of 56 cypress-containing sites; only Acronicta perblanda, Lithophane abita, and Tolype minta are represented at every fewer sites. As in those species, the reasons for this sparsity are unknown. Schweitzer et al. (2011) speculated that false rarity may be involved: that either due to its narrow flight period or possible confusion with Iridopsis pergracilis, that it has been simply undersampled. However, we do not feel that this is the case in our state. Unlike Acronicta perblanda or Lithophane abita, both of which fly early in the year, Iridopsis cypressaria flies primarily in June, where more of our samples -- 78 out of 326 -- have been taken in cypress-containing habitats than in any other month of the year. This species, moreover, shows no sign of being undersampled using light traps. We have also been targeting this species since close to the inception of our quantitative surveys and have dissected any specimens that we could not clearly separate from Iridopsis pergracilis based on external appearance. The only factor we have noted that might explain its scarcity is its greater association with non-riverine stands of cypress than with deep riverine swamps. Those habitats have been subject to far more conversion to agriculture and silviculture than river swamps and, in the case of cypress savannas, to degradation due to the suppression of wildfire. To the extent that I. cypressaria is a specialist on those habitats rather than the more extensive and better connected riverine swamps, it is likely to be more vulnerable to the effects of habitat fragmentation and hence local extirpation.

 Photo Gallery for Iridopsis cypressaria - Small Cypress Looper

Photos: 4

Recorded by: SPH on 1995-06-16
Onslow Co.
Comment: Male. Identify confirmed by dissection. Wingspan 2.0 cm; forewing length = 1.2 cm
Recorded by: SPH on 1995-06-16
Onslow Co.
Comment: Male. Identify confirmed by dissection. Wingspan 1.9 cm; forewing length = 1.2 cm
Recorded by: Steve Hall on 1994-06-15
Dare Co.
Comment: Male. Wingspan = 2.2 cm; forewing length = 1.2 cm
Recorded by: Steve Hall on 1994-06-15
Dare Co.
Comment: Female. Wingspan = 2.3 cm; forewing length = 1.8 cm