Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFSphingidae Members: 411 NC Records

Lapara coniferarum (J.E. Smith, 1797) - Southern Pine Sphinx



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Taxonomy
Superfamily: Bombycoidea Family: SphingidaeSubfamily: SphinginaeTribe: SphinginiP3 Number: 890135.00 MONA Number: 7816.00
Comments: Lapara currently contains three species, all occurring in the United States. The interrelationships between the species are complex and the last word has yet to be written. This common species is a taxonomic puzzle.
Species Status: Three species are currently recognized but barcoding points to a very different picture. L. phaeobrachycerous ranges from Louisiana across the Gulf States and up to South Carolina. It does not penetrate peninsular Florida. Barcoding places the species squarely within L. coniferarum which extends from about southern Pa. to Florida and west to the Mississippi River including the entire range of L. phaeobrachycerous. While there are morphological differences upon which the name phaeobrachycerous was based, these may only be geographical character changes that do not support calling it a separate species in light of genetic continuity. L. bombycoides, as currently conceived, extends across Canada and swoops down the Appalachians. In the mountains and in the piedmont we have specimens which resemble both L. bombycoides and L. coniferarum with the degree of black streaks in the pattern separating the two. Intermediates between the two defined patterns also exist and are not uncommon. Barcoding of specimens from across the state reveal one homogeneous species. Unfortunately, there are no specimens barcoded from the area south of Canada to North Carolina but it is only in Canada that the barcodes are distinct and represent true L. bombycoides. Instead of treating the streaked specimens L. bombycoides and the more uniform specimens L. coniferarum, we are treating the entire complex in North Carolina as L. coniferarum. The butterfly, Cercyonis pegala, presents a similar character segregation across the state. At this point we are unable to distinguish many of our piedmont and montane specimens from true L. bombycoides but there is no genetic evidence that we have more than one species here.
Identification
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984); Beadle and Leckie (2012)Online Photographs: BugGuide, MPG, BAMONATechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1948); Hodges (1971); Tuttle (2007)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Forbes (1948); Wagner (2005); Tuttle (2007)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: A medium sized sphinx moth with a gray ground color shaded with brown and streaked with black; has a jagged, pale gray postmedian. Sexes are similar.
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: Larvae are distinctive: green with three longitudinal pale bands instead of the usual seven oblique stripes; has a red face and no caudal horn. There is also a very rare caterpillar morph described in Tuttle (2007) which has been found in North Carolina but no adult moth has been reared from this morph to see if it differs from the standard form. Pupation occurs underground.
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Occurs statewide, from the Outer Banks to the High Mountains (as bombycoides).
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
Immature 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: The species is on the wing from April to September but evidence for discrete broods is not found. Likely there are usually three to four broods which overlap and blur specific flight periods.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Appears to make use of all pine-containing habitats -- nearly all habitats in general -- in North Carolina. In the Coastal Plain, it occurs in Maritime Forests, Coastal Fringe Evergreen Forests, and both bottomlands and Non-riverine Swamp Forests, all where Loblolly is the principal pine. In the Piedmont, most records come from upland habitats, including Xeric Hardpan Barrens where Shortleaf and Scrub Pines are prominent. Records from the Mountains (including for bombycoides) come from both mesic habitats and dry ridges, where a number of hard pine species are present.
Larval Host Plants: Stenophagous. Pinus is the preferred foodplant genus although cypress has also been reported. However, in our state the species is absent in cypress swamps unless pines are present. We have found larvae on loblolly but we have records for this species from many areas where Loblolly is absent and other pines are dominant. It also occurs in Pond Pine Woodlands and other peatlands, where only Pond Pine is present. It is virtually universal in Longleaf Pine-dominated savannas, flatwoods, and sandhills.
Observation Methods: Adults come readily to 15 watt blacklights (females are less common at lights) but no records for nectaring exist nor do they come to baits.
Wikipedia
See also Habitat Account for General Pine Forests and Woodlands
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G5 [S5]
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: Confusion exists regarding the true number of species and their ranges and maculation patterns. We need additional barcodes for specimens from Virginia to the Canadian border and from across the Gulf States and Florida. Tuttle (2007) discusses other problems with our current classification of this complex. Although Lapara appears to be less common in the Piedmont and Mountains, it is abundant, widespread, and occupying a wide range of habitats in the Coastal Plain. Over the state as whole, it appears to be secure.

 Photo Gallery for Lapara coniferarum - Southern Pine Sphinx

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

Recorded by: Dean Furbish and Joy Wiggins on 2022-06-06
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka on 2022-05-31
Moore Co.
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Recorded by: Stephen Hall on 2022-05-29
Orange Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-08-14
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Bo Sullivan on 2021-08-10
Moore Co.
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Recorded by: Lior Carlson, Richard Teper on 2021-08-04
Orange Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka on 2021-07-14
Madison Co.
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Recorded by: tom ward on 2021-07-08
Buncombe Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka on 2021-06-16
Madison Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka, Bo Sullivan and Steve Hall on 2021-06-09
Richmond Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka, Bo Sullivan and Steve Hall on 2021-06-07
Moore Co.
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Recorded by: David L. Heavner on 2021-06-06
Chatham Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-06-06
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka, Bo Sullivan and Steve Hall on 2021-05-11
Scotland Co.
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Recorded by: J. Thomson on 2020-09-28
Orange Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Hall, Bo Sullivan, and Todd Pusser on 2020-09-09
Scotland Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Taylor on 2020-08-27
Beaufort Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Taylor on 2020-08-27
Beaufort Co.
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Recorded by: Vin Stanton on 2020-08-22
Buncombe Co.
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Recorded by: Owen McConnell on 2020-08-14
Durham Co.
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Recorded by: Owen McConnell on 2020-08-14
Durham Co.
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Recorded by: Erich Hofmann on 2020-08-10
New Hanover Co.
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Recorded by: Erich Hofmann on 2020-08-10
New Hanover Co.
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Recorded by: Simpson Eason on 2020-08-06
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2020-08-01
Madison Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka on 2020-07-24
Madison Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2020-07-11
Madison Co.
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Recorded by: Simpson Eason on 2020-05-06
Durham Co.
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Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2019-08-10
Guilford Co.
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Recorded by: L. M. Carlson on 2019-08-08
Orange Co.
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