Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFGeometridae Members:
Paleacrita Members:
24 NC Records

Paleacrita merriccata Dyar, [1903] - White-spotted Cankerworm Moth

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Superfamily: Geometroidea Family: GeometridaeSubfamily: EnnominaeTribe: BistoniniP3 Number: 911084.00 MONA Number: 6663.00
Comments: The genus is limited to North America and contains three species of which two occur in North Carolina.
Species Status: Specimens from North Carolina has been barcoded and are quite similar to individuals from Canada and the US.
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, GBIF, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1948); (Rindge, 1975)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: Our two species look unlike most other geometrids and can be distinguished by the light reniform spot in P. merriccata which is absent in P. vernata. Females of both species are flightless. In merricata, the body is dark gray or grayish brown and lacks the dark dorsal stripe that is often present in vernata; the ends of the tarsal joints also tend to be darker and not contrasting with the rest of the leg as in vernata (Rindge, 1975).
Forewing Length: 14-18 mm, males; < 1 mm, females (Rindge, 1975)
Adult Structural Features: The reproductive structures of the males are abundantly different from those of of P. vernata. Note the differences in the aedeagus and the position of the valves on the male genitalic capsule. There are numerous rows of spines on the dorsal surface of the pelt which may be involved in heat capture and retention.
Structural photos
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: Undescribed
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Found throughout the state in wooded areas.
County Map: Clicking on a county returns the records for the species in that county.
Flight Dates:
 High Mountains (HM) ‚Č• 4,000 ft.
 Low Mountains (LM) < 4,000 ft.
 Piedmont (Pd)
 Coastal Plain (CP)

Click on graph to enlarge
Flight Comments: This is one of our “winter” moths, active when most other moth species are surviving in the egg, young larval or pupal stages. Adults are often seen at convenience stores where they are the only moths that come to the lights in January and February.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: A number of our records come from lakeshores, but at least a few come from Longleaf Pine savannas or wooded sites of uncertain habitats but apparently located away from impoundments
Larval Host Plants: The foodplants of this species are unknown but P. vernata is known to be polyphagous on woody trees - View
Observation Methods: Adults come to light but not to bait.
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G4 [S4?]
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: Since few people are searching for moths during cold days in January and February, our records undoubtedly under represent the species status in our state. The causes of population outbreaks and their absence in rural areas are unknown. Flightlessness may allow females to produce more eggs and to attract less attention from predators for otherwise it would seem to be a poor strategy. Much remains to be learned about this interesting species particularly if the caterpillars feed on tree species shunned by P. vernata.

 Photo Gallery for Paleacrita merriccata - White-spotted Cankerworm Moth

Photos: 11

Recorded by: John Petranka on 2023-01-03
Orange Co.
Recorded by: John Petranka on 2022-11-25
Orange Co.
Recorded by: Michael P. Morales on 2022-01-26
Cumberland Co.
Recorded by: Michael P. Morales on 2022-01-26
Cumberland Co.
Recorded by: Michael P. Morales on 2022-01-05
Cumberland Co.
Recorded by: Michael P. Morales on 2022-01-05
Cumberland Co.
Recorded by: Simpson Eason on 2020-02-04
Durham Co.
Recorded by: j.wyche on 2018-01-11
Gates Co.
Recorded by: Robert Gilson on 2017-02-24
Mecklenburg Co.
Recorded by: J. Cameron on 2014-12-27
Burke Co.
Recorded by: T. DeSantis on 2009-12-13
Camden Co.