Moths of North Carolina
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5 NC Records

Cycnia inopinatus (Hy. Edwards, 1882) - Unexpected Cycnia Moth

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Superfamily: Noctuoidea Family: ErebidaeSubfamily: ArctiinaeTribe: ArctiiniP3 Number: 930402.00 MONA Number: 8228.00
Comments: One of five species in this genus that occur in North America (Lafontaine and Schmidt, 2010), four of which have been recorded in North Carolina
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, BAMONA (larva only)Technical Description, Adults: Forbes (1960)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Forbes (1960); Wagner (2005)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: Similar in appearance to the other species of Cycnia: pale wings with an yellow streak along the costal edge of the forewing; yellow on the head and collar; abdomen yellow or orange with a dorsal row of black spots. C. inopinatus is smaller than C. tenera and usually with grayish or buffy forewings and with the yellow along the costa ending short of halfway down the wing. The legs are distinctively lead gray (Forbes, 1960), unlike the other species, where the legs are bicolored white and gray or largely whitish.
Adult Structural Features: The lower portion of the frons is gray or white, whereas it is all yellow in tenera. The coxae of the forelegs have distinctive patches of gray, whereas they are uniformly yellow in tenera (Forbes, 1960).
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from photos showing hindwings, abdomen, or other specialized views [e.g., frons, palps, antennae, undersides].
Immatures and Development: Larvae are distinctively orange with separated tufts of short, dark hair located on the dorsal surface of the abdomen and longer tufts located at the head (Forbes, 1960; Wagner, 2005).
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Probably restricted to the Coastal Plain
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: Wagner (2005) states that there are two generations in New Jersey; our records are too few to detect any pattern
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Bess (2005) describes inopinatus as "typically found in high quality, coastal scrub, dry barrens and similar native grasslands, typically on sand and associated with the Atlantic Coastal Plain or Great Lakes drainage." Our few records are all from open grasslands associated with Longleaf Pine in the Coastal Plain, but come from wet savannas, sandhill seeps, or depression meadows, although with drier sandhills habitats usually located in adjoining areas.
Larval Host Plants: Stenophagous, feeding primarily or exclusively on Milkweeds (Asclepias sp.) (Forbes, 1960; Wagner, 2005; Bess, 2005). Forbes also mentions records from Sea Ivy (Cissus trifoliata), which doesn't occur in our state (except possibly as an introduced species along the coast), and low peas.
Observation Methods: All of our records are from UV light traps, but mostly as single individuals (one sample had two).
See also Habitat Account for Open Apocynaceous Forblands
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status: SR
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G4 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: Bess (2005) suspects that habitat fragmentation due to conversion of native grasslands to pastures and other uses, along with suppression of wildfires has lead to a significant reduction in the number of viable populations of this species. We agree with his conclusion as well as his recommendation to raise the Global Rank to G2G3.

 Photo Gallery for Cycnia inopinatus - Unexpected Cycnia Moth

Photos: 1

Recorded by: SPH on 2001-06-19
Harnett Co.
Comment: Male; wingspan = 3.0 cm; forewing length = 1.4 cm