Moths of North Carolina
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26 NC Records

Isoparce cupressi (Boisduval, 1875) - Bald Cypress Sphinx

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Superfamily: Bombycoidea Family: SphingidaeSubfamily: SphinginaeTribe: SphinginiP3 Number: 890108.00 MONA Number: 7791.00
Comments: For many years a single species occupied the genus but a second Mexican species has now been described.
Species Status: Barcodes indicate that Isoparce cupressi is a single, well-defined species in our area.
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984); Leckie and Beadle (2018)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, BAMONATechnical Description, Adults: Hodges (1971); Tuttle (2007)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Dominick (1973); Wagner (2005); Tuttle (2007)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: Isoparce is one of our smaller sphinx moths, with warm brown tones and fine streaking. Unlikely to be confused with any species other than Paratrea plebeja with which it is often captured. Sexes similar but females considerably larger. Larvae of all instars were well described and illustrated by Dominick (1973) and also illustrated by Wagner (2005).
Wingspan: 6 - 6.5 cm (Covell, 1984)
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: The larvae are typically dark green, with a distinctive dark mid-dorsal strip and white subdorsal, lateral, and subspiracular streaks. Like other cypess-feeding lepidoptera, cupressi appears to have become adapted for pupating up on the tree rather than burrowing into the ground like virtually all of our other Sphingid species. Richard Dominick found two pupae under loose cypress bark (cited by Hodges, 1971) and later demonstrated that pre-pupal larvae would burrow into patches of moss on cypress trunks to pupate (Dominick, 1973).
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: All of our records come from the Coastal Plain (Cypress extends into the Piedmont along a few rivers but our limited sampling in those areas -- e.g., at Louisburg in Franklin County -- did not turn up this species)
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: There are two broods, April-May and July-August. Strays into September so perhaps a partial third brood can be accommodated.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Cypress swamps. Not recorded in Carolina Bays or other Cypress Savannas where only Pond Cypress occurs.
Larval Host Plants: Monophagous. So far only observed in association with bald cypress.
Observation Methods: Adults have a shortened tongue and likely do not visit flowers; no records of such behavior known. They come to 15 watt blacklights in small numbers with up 3 individuals collected in a single trap. No records from bait traps. The larvae like so many evergreen feeding species is perfectly camouflaged and often feed low enough to be collected while beating branches. Larvae are easy to rear if given fresh cypress foliage.
See also Habitat Account for Cypress Swamps and Savannas
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G4 [S3S4]
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands
Comments: Long thought to be a very rare species, elucidation of the life history has shown it to be a habitat specialist and investigators were simply looking in the wrong places. Adults rarely occur outside swamps which may indicate that populations will decrease as swamps are drained and fragmented.

 Photo Gallery for Isoparce cupressi - Bald Cypress Sphinx

Photos: 4

Recorded by: Thomas C Reed on 2019-08-31
Wake Co.
Recorded by: Thomas C Reed on 2019-08-31
Wake Co.
Recorded by: F. Williams, S. Williams on 2017-07-14
Gates Co.
Recorded by: F. Williams, S. Williams on 2017-07-14
Gates Co.