Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFGeometridae Members: 433 NC Records

Hypagyrtis esther (Barnes, 1928) - Esther Moth



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Taxonomy
Superfamily: Geometroidea Family: GeometridaeSubfamily: EnnominaeTribe: BistoniniP3 Number: 911076.00 MONA Number: 6655.00
Comments: This New World genus contains 7 species, 1 neotropical and 6 from North America, three of which occur in North Carolina (piniata may also be possibly present in the mountains -- Wagner et al., 2001). This genus shows a large range of variation, however, and its taxonomy still appears to be unsettled. Forbes (1948) stated that "the species or forms of this genus are completely confused and show no satisfactory differences in genitalia -- they may be merely races and strains, but breeding from known foods will be needed to make sure." Much of the variation is contained within Hypagyrtis unipunctata but there are forms believed to belong to that species that are highly similar to those of esther.
Species Status: Numerous specimens have been barcoded because they seem to separate into three distinct species. However, all three occur in Craven County and none seem to be geographically isolated so this may be a case of deep divisions in bar code sequence without significant speciation occurring. Unfortunately, the genitalia of Hypagyrtis are all very similar.
Identification
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuideTechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1948)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Wagner (2005; but possibly refers more directly to H. piniata)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: We follow the description given in Forbes (1948) that Hypagyrtis esther is distinguished by its even dark violet-brown ground color out to the subterminal line, followed by a rusty brown shade in the subterminal area. The antemedian and postmedian are both dark with the postmedian waved and most distinct; the postmedian is concave in its lower portion and meets the inner margin at a right angle. The subterminal pale spot typical of the genus is typically single and oval. Although not explicitly stated by Forbes, there is no indication of sexual dimorphism with respect to coloration and markings. Males are smaller and have proportionately shorter wings and are easily recognized by their pectinate antennae; the margins of the females are more scalloped. Hypagyrtis brendae is similarly dark but grayer, and has a similar rusty subterminal shading, but has a more conspicuous if diffuse median line. In brendae, the postmedian converges with the median towards the inner margin, with both lines following a straighter, more oblique course than the postmedian in esther (Heitzman, 1974). Covell (1984) states that there are melanic forms of unipunctata, which may resemble esther, but we have not seen any description of forms of esther that are buff, yellow-brown, or pale luteous colored as described by Forbes (1948) for the various forms now lumped as unipunctata, or the pepper-and-salt colored forms that he described for H. piniata and one form of unipunctata. Unfortunately, this genus does not appear to show any genitalic characters that can be used to distinguish the species (Forbes, 1948). Barcoding and other DNA analysis will probably be needed to resolve these issues. Until then, we recognize esther solely based on its dark, violet-brown median and basal areas and exclude buff or other more lightly colored or mottled forms.
Adult Structural Features: There do not seem to be distinct characters in the male; in the female the shape of the signum may be diagnostic but additional samples are needed.
Structural photos
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: Larvae are probably highly variable, with a brown ground color variously marked with shades of green, yellow, tan, white, and black (Wagner, 2005); however, the description given in Wagner may apply more to H. piniata, which he distinguished from esther primarily on the basis of range.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Due to possible confusion with either an undescribed sibling of esther or with a form of piniata, the true distribtution of esther is unclear in North Carolina. Forbes (1948) indicated that he only knew of specimens of H. esther from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey and the Coastal Plain of North Carolina. Wagner's (2005) account is also based on the assumption that esther is more likely to occur in the Coastal Plain and barrens communities and piniata more likely in the Mountains. Barcoding and additional host plant analysis is needed to clarify the situation.
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: While the species has been recorded throughout the growing season, there are probably three distinct broods in the Coastal Plain, two broods in the Piedmont and Low Mountains, and a single brood in the High Mountains. Second and third brood specimens are much smaller and somewhat different in maculation from the first brood.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: In the Coastal Plain, we have records from habitats dominated by all three of the major pine species in that region: Longleaf Pine-dominated Savannas, Flatwoods, and Sandhills; Pond Pine Woodlands; and Loblolly-dominated Coastal Fringe Evergreen and Bottomland communities. In the eastern Piedmont, we have records from Xeric Hardpan Barrens where Short-leaf Pine and Virginia Pine are both common.
Larval Host Plants: Stenophagous, feeding on pines. We have reared it from larvae found on Loblolly Pine but it is not limited to the range of Loblolly. Possibly feeding on a wide range of pines but records are not available for most species.
Observation Methods: Adults have short, non-functional mouthparts (Forbes, 1948); consequently, they do not come to bait or show up at flowers. They appear to come fairly well to blacklights with a maximum of 41 captured in a single trap.
Wikipedia
See also Habitat Account for General Pine Forests and Woodlands
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G5 [SU]
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: Occupies a wide range of pine-containing habitats and probably feeds on a variety of pine species, including the widely planted Loblolly. Appears to be secure in the state, although more needs to be learned about its taxonomic status and true distribution in the state.

 Photo Gallery for Hypagyrtis esther - Esther Moth

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

Recorded by: Simpson Eason on 2021-09-05
Durham Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-09-04
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka on 2021-08-19
Madison Co.
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Recorded by: Simpson Eason on 2021-08-05
Durham Co.
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Recorded by: K. Bischof on 2021-08-02
Transylvania Co.
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Recorded by: David George on 2021-07-30
Durham Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-07-27
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Simpson Eason on 2021-07-22
Durham Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-07-14
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: David L. Heavner on 2021-06-09
Chatham Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-06-01
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-05-18
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-05-16
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-05-15
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-05-11
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-05-11
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-05-11
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-05-09
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-04-30
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2020-09-01
Guilford Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2020-09-01
Madison Co.
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Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2020-08-27
Guilford Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2020-08-11
Madison Co.
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Recorded by: Simpson Eason on 2020-07-28
Durham Co.
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Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2020-07-27
Guilford Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Hall on 2020-07-22
Orange Co.
Comment: Male
Recorded by: Steve Hall on 2020-07-22
Orange Co.
Comment: Female
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2020-07-12
Madison Co.
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Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2020-06-04
Guilford Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Hall on 2020-06-02
Orange Co.
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