Moths of North Carolina
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53 NC Records

Zale undularis (Drury, 1773) - Black Zale

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Superfamily: Noctuoidea Family: ErebidaeSubfamily: ErebinaeTribe: OphiusiniP3 Number: 931030.00 MONA Number: 8695.00
Comments: One of 39 species in this genus that occur north of Mexico, 23 of which have been recorded in North Carolina
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984); Beadle and Leckie (2012)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, GBIF, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1954)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Forbes (1954); Wagner et al. (2011)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: A dark umber to coal black Zale with a distinctive yellowish-brown patch located on the outside of the postmedian in a bight opposite the cell. Aeruginosa is similar but lacks the pale patch and typically has a frosting of green scales that are missing in undularis. Pseudanthracia coracias is similar but smaller, lacking the pale patch beyond the postmedian but possessing whitish scales -- absent in undularis -- that partially outline the reniform.
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: Larvae are a mottled brown to gray; the head has a distinctively reticulate pattern marked with white v's (see Forbes, 1954, for a detailed description).
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: May be found throughout the mountains, where Black Locust is native, but probably occurs at only scattered locations in the Piedmont; and is likely absent from 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: Probably has just a single flight, peaking in June (Wagner et al. (2011) state that there are partial second and third broods in the South)
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Our records come from mesic-to-dry sites in the Mountains, where it probably feeds primarily on Black Locust. One historic record exists from Wake County, but the habitat at that site is unrecorded.
Larval Host Plants: Stenophagous, feeding on both Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) and Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) (Forbes, 1953; Wagner et al., 2011)
Observation Methods: Probably comes only moderately well to blacklights, with only a few being captured in single traps; probably also comes well to bait, as is true for other Zales
See also Habitat Account for Locust Groves and Thickets
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G5 [S4]
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands
Comments: The natural habitats used by this species are unclear; both Black Locust and Honey Locust are often associated with rural lands in North Carolina and are often planted well outside of their natural range within the state. Although there is currently little evidence for the presence of undularis in the Piedmont, it could be expanding its range within the state following the increased use of its host plants (Wagner et al., 2011).

 Photo Gallery for Zale undularis - Black Zale

Photos: 12

Recorded by: Emily Stanley on 2023-05-20
Yancey Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka on 2022-06-07
Madison Co.
Recorded by: tom ward on 2022-05-01
Buncombe Co.
Recorded by: tom ward on 2022-04-30
Buncombe Co.
Recorded by: tom ward on 2021-06-22
Buncombe Co.
Recorded by: Vin Stanton on 2021-05-20
Buncombe Co.
Recorded by: J. A. Anderson on 2018-05-18
Surry Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2018-05-11
Madison Co.
Recorded by: K. Bischof on 2017-04-27
McDowell Co.
Recorded by: Darryl Willis on 2015-10-20
Cabarrus Co.
Recorded by: J.B. Sullivan on 2013-07-06
Mecklenburg Co.
Recorded by: JBS on 2000-05-04
Ashe Co.
Comment: Wingspan = 3.9 cm