Moths of North Carolina
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Dasychira Members:
7 NC Records

Dasychira vagans (Barnes & McDunnough, 1913) - Variable Tussock Moth

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Superfamily: Noctuoidea Family: ErebidaeSubfamily: LymantriinaeTribe: OrgyiiniP3 Number: 930146.00 MONA Number: 8294.00
Comments: One of 16 species in this genus that occur in North America, 10 of which have been recorded in North Carolina.
Species Status:
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984); Beadle and Leckie (2012)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONA, GBIF, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1948); Ferguson (1978)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Both Forbes (1948) and Ferguson (1978) provide keys to the larvae.                                                                                 
Adult Markings: According to Forbes (1948), males are typically ash gray without brown or green tints; evenly colored except for the whitish shade that extends from the costa across the cell; possess a black postmedian that is somewhat sinuous -- evenly concave above a tooth at M3, but irregular or only somewhat scalloped below the tooth to the inner margin. According to Ferguson (1978), the postmedian on the underside of the forewing is characteristically more regular than in the other species, running either straight or convex rather than concave. Forms with the black longitudinal bar are rare (Ferguson, 1978). Females, which are much larger, have similar pattern and color, often possessing a blackish shade in the subterminal area but no brownish color (Forbes, 1948).
Adult Structural Features: Dasychira species have two dorsal tufts on their abdomens, whereas Orgyia have just one. Adults lack mouthparts. Slight genitalic differences separate basiflava, vagans, and dorsipennata (Ferguson, 1978).
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: Larvae of this species have a pair of dark hair pencils at the posterior end but only a short dorsal tuft on A8 rather than a long hair pencil. Larvae of basiflava are similar in this regard but are generally darker: in vagans, the dorsal, brush-like tufts on segments are light brown or gray and the tufts along the sides of the body are pure white; in basiflava, the dorsal tufts are nearly black and the tufts along the sides are gray or brown. Larvae of meridionalis are also similar in terms of their posterior hair pencils but have black club-shaped plumose hairs along the sides of the body arising from tubercles located both above and below the spiracles whereas vagans has lateral black hairs originating only from below the spiracles (see Ferguson, 1978, for details).
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Our records come from the Mountains and from montane-like habitats at Hanging Rock State Park in the western Piedmont
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)

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Flight Comments: Flies primarily from June to July
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Our few records come from within or near riparian habitats in the Mountains and montane-like high monadnocks of the Sauratown Mountains in the Piedmont.
Larval Host Plants: Polyphagous, feeding on many species of hardwood trees and shrubs. Ferguson (1978) lists apple, white birch, willow, aspen and poplar, but discounts records from conifers. - View
Observation Methods: Our records all come from 15 watt UV light traps. Adults do not feed, so do not come to bait or to flowers. Larvae are distinctive and should be looked for on low-growing trees and shrubs. The hair of all Lymantriinae larvae are possibly urticating, however, and should be handled with care (Ferguson, 1978).
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: GNR [SU]
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: This is a primarily northern species that appears to be uncommon to rare in North Carolina. However, it occurs at low elevations in the Mountains and at monadnocks in the Piedmont; it is unlikely, therefore, to represent a true northern disjunct. Habitats and host plants do not appear to be limiting factors but more information needs to be obtained in order to accurately determine its distribution, habitat affinities, and conservation status in North Carolina.

 Photo Gallery for Dasychira vagans - Variable Tussock Moth

Photos: 1

Recorded by: Rob Van Epps on 2023-08-05
Watauga Co.