Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFGracillariidae Members: 5 NC Records

Phyllocnistis subpersea Davis and Wagner, 2011 - No Common Name

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Family: GracillariidaeSubfamily: PhyllocnistinaeP3 Number: 330407.00 MONA Number: 852.10
Comments: Phyllocnistis is a large genus with more than 125 described species worldwide, with 16 species currently recognized in North America. Davis and Wagner (2011) surmised that there may be hundreds of undescribed species in the neotropics. The adults of some species are very similar, and knowledge of the hostplant and mine characteristics is helpful in identifying morphologically similar species (Eiseman, 2019).
Species Status: This species was recently described by Davis and Wagner (2011), and is one of two species of Phyllocnistis in North Carolina that feed on Redbays (Persea sp.).
Field Guide Descriptions: Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONATechnical Description, Adults: Davis and Wagner (2011)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Davis and Wagner (2011)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: The following is primarily based on descriptions provided by Davis and Wagner (2011). The frons is shiny white, smooth, and glabrous. The vertex is whitish with subtle faint orange tints, while the antenna is whitish with a faint orange luster above. The labial palps are white, short, and roughened apically. The thorax and ground color of the forewing is straw colored, and sometimes with orange tints. The forewing has a conspicuous longitudinal fascia (streak) that is edged with black scales above and below. This joins a black-margined transverse fascia that leaves the costal margin at a 45° angle. The lower arm of the fascia where it leaves the inner margin is poorly defined, and often fuses with a diffuse subbasal patch of fuscous scales. There is a second costal fascia that usually fusing with the transverse fascia distally. The apical spot is weakly developed, and is small and fuscous rather than black. The apical strigulae are vague and poorly differentiated. The black fringe scales about the tornus are broadened, conspicuously blackened apically, and raised appreciably above the plane of the wing. The legs are silvery white, with a faint orange luster on the dorsal and outer surfaces. The foreleg sometimes shows a modestly level of darkening, while the abdomen is silvery white and unmarked. The most diagnostic features of this species are the raised row of broadened, black fringe scales on the tornus, the short labial palps (about 1.3x the height of the eye), and the absence of a black apical spot. Phyllocnistis hyperpersea is similar to P. subpersea, but is smaller (forewing length < 2.3 mm), has shorter labial palps (less than the height of the eye), has a prominent black apical spot, and has less conspicuous black fringe scales about the tornus. These species also differ by the leaf mine characteristics, with Phyllocnistis hyperpersea mining the upper leaf surface and P. subpersea usually mining the lower.
Forewing Length: 2.0 to 2.7 mm, although most are between 2.4–2.6 mm (Davis and Wagner, 2011).
Adult Structural Features: Davis and Wagner (2011) provide detailed descriptions of the male and female genitalia. Because of the general similarity of both male and female genitalia that exists among most members of Phyllocnistis, species identifications that rely upon standard genitalic characters are challenging (Davis and Wagner, 2011). The male genitalia are similar to those of P. hyperpersea, except the valva is curved slightly dorsad and is relatively shorter ( ~ 1.6× length of the vinculum). The basal apodeme of the valva is directed slightly caudad in repose. The female genitalia are also similar to those of P. hyperpersea, except the ductus bursae is slightly shorter (~ 2.2× the length of the papillae anales), and it gradually enlarges to a moderately slender, elliptical, corpus bursae. The ductus seminalis is ~ 1.8× the length of the corpus bursae. Davis and Wagner (2011) noted that the pupae of Phyllocnistis often show species-specific differences in external anatomy. In particular, the frontal process (cocoon-cutter) of the pupa of P. subpersea consists of a pair of stout, conical spines arising near the apex, and a single more subapical and strongly curved spine from the upper frons. In contrast, the frontal process of P. hyperpersea consists of a single spine that extends forward as a relatively large and broadly triangular, acute spine.
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: The egg is deposited away from the midrib and usually on the lower side of the leaf (occasionally on the upper side). The larva passes through three sap-feeding instars that create a long serpentine mine. Mines that were examined by Davis and Wagner (2011) increased from ~ 0.3 mm wide in the early stages to a maximum of 2–2.5 mm wide at maturity. Each mine contains a dark, continuous median frass trail that extends the length of the mine. The width of the frass trail is about half the width of the mine or less. The fourth instar is a highly specialized, non-feeding stage whose primary function is to spin the cocoon in the terminal chamber. The pupation chamber is slightly enlarged, elliptical, and typically found along the edge of a leaf. The mines of P. subpersea and P. hyperpersea are sometimes found together locally and are easy to distinguish based on the mine characteristics. The mines of the latter are usually produced on the upper leaf surface, have a wide, light-brown, frass line that fills 50% or more of the mine, and have an oval pupation chamber that is found away from the leaf edge.
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Populations have been documented in the Coastal Plain of Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina. Our five records for North Carolina as of 2021 are all from the eastern Coastal Plain. Records from Dare Co. are the northernmost known localities for 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)

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Flight Comments: The phenology is poorly documented. In Florida, the adults from recently collected mines emerged from February 22 to April 11 (Davis and Wagner, 2011).
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Phyllocnistis subpersea is a specialist on Redbays (Persea). Our two native species are found in both wetlands (Persea palustris) and drier, sandy habitats (P. borbonia).
Larval Host Plants: The only known hosts are Swamp Redbay (Persea palustris) and Upland Redbay (P. borbonia).
Observation Methods: Almost all records are based on either leaf mines or adults that were reared from leaf mines.
See also Habitat Account for Laurel Shrublands
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: GNR S1S2
State Protection:
Comments: Phyllocnistis subpersea appears to be rare in North Carolina; our one record as of 2020 is the northernmost record for this species. Phyllocnistis subpersea is also highly threatened by the widespread loss of Redbay trees throughout the Southeast due to an introduced pathogen, the Laurel Wilt fungus (Raffaelea lauricola).

 Photo Gallery for Phyllocnistis subpersea - No Common Name

Photos: 6

Recorded by: Jim Petranka, John Petranka, Becky Elkin, and Sally Gewalt on 2021-12-06
Dare Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka, John Petranka, Becky Elkin, and Sally Gewalt on 2021-12-04
Dare Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka on 2021-03-29
Bladen Co.
Comment: An unoccupied mine on Persea palustris.
Recorded by: j. B. Sullivan on 2020-05-16
Carteret Co.
Comment: Old mines on Persea borbonia; unoccupied.
Recorded by: Bo Sullivan on 2020-02-17
Carteret Co.
Comment: A backlit image of the mine on the underside of a Persea palustris leaf. This species produces a lower surface mine, has a very narrow frass line, lays the eggs away from the midrib, and produces an elliptical chamber. P. longipalpa produces similar mines, but is only known from the Everglades and vicinity.
Recorded by: Bo Sullivan on 2020-02-17
Carteret Co.