Moths of North Carolina
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55 NC Records

Exyra fax (Grote, 1873) - Epauletted Pitcher-plant Moth

Superfamily: Noctuoidea Family: NoctuidaeSubfamily: PlusiinaeTribe: PlusiiniP3 Number: 931188.00 MONA Number: 9021.00 MONA Synonym: Exyra rolandiana
Comments: One of three members of this genus, all of which are highly associated with Pitcher Plants in the genus Sarracenia, which occurs only in eastern North America. All three species have been recorded in North Carolina. This genus was formerly placed in the Acontiinae (e.g., Forbes, 1954) but was moved to the Plusiinae by Lafontaine and Poole (1991).
Species Status: The names fax and rolandiana have been used in the past to refer to the southern and northern forms of this species respectively (e.g., Forbes, 1954), which have sometimes been considered different species (e.g., Hodges et al., 1984).
Field Guide Descriptions: Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONA, GBIF, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Jones (1921); Forbes (1954); Lafontaine and Poole (1991)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Jones (1921); Forbes (1954); Lafontaine and Poole (1991); Wagner et al. (2011)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: A moderately small Noctuid The forewings are variably marked with crimson and yellow; the thorax is usually yellow, although also shaded with crimson. In other species of Exyra, the wings are black and yellow and the thorax is completely black.
Wingspan: 16-28 mm (Forbes, 1954)
Adult Structural Features: Male and female genitalia are illustrated in Lafontaine and Poole (1991).
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: Larvae are dark brown to maroon, with deep pale-banded constrictions between segments (Forbes, 1954; Wagner et al., 2011). Unlike the other two species of Exyra, the larvae of E. fax lack extended warts (also referred to as pinnacula or lappets) on the sides of the thorax and abdomen. The life history of the Exyra species was well-described by Frank Morton Jones, who studied them initially in Richmond County, NC (Jones, 1904). All life stages are closely associated with their host plants: eggs are laid within the entrance to the pitcher; larvae seal off the entrances to the tubes to create a sealed feeding chamber; both overwintering by larvae and pupation typically occurs within the bases of the tubes; and adults typically rest within the tubes between dispersive flights (see Jones, 1921, for details, including slight differences between species).
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Occurs in both the northern and southern Coastal Plain, including the Fall-line Sandhills. Formerly, at least, it was also recorded in several bogs in Montgomery County in the eastern Piedmont. However, it now appears to be extirpated from that region. Although Sarracenia purpurea populations occur in the Mountains of North Carolina, so far we have no records of fax from that region.
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: Appears to have two adult flights in North Carolina, in April and May and more continuously from June to September.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: All of our records come from peatlands, including Low Pocosin and Pocosin Openings; peaty areas in Wet Pine Savannas and Sandhill Seeps; and from boggy, sediment-filled portions of beaver ponds and other shallow impoundments. Always found in association with its host plant, Sarracenia purpurea.
Larval Host Plants: Monophagous, feeding solely on Purple Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia purpurea) (Jones, 1907, 1921).
Observation Methods: Comes well to blacklights. Both adults and larvae can be found by inspecting the tubes of their host plants.
See also Habitat Account for General Herbaceous Peatlands
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: This species, along with other members of this genus, is highly specialized on a habitat type that naturally had a extremely patchy distribution and that underwent a severe reduction in both its range and overall extent since European settlement due to conversion to croplands and pine plantations and to suppression of the natural fire regime. These trends, moreover, are still continuing. Surveys conducted by the Natural Heritage Program in 2009-2011 in the Sandhills and the Uwharrie Mountain region of the eastern Piedmont documented a particularly strong recent decline in Pitcher Plant populations. Even where a few plants have managed to survive -- or even where Sarracenia populations have recovered due to recent prescribed burning -- Exyra species could not be found, even where they had been seen as recently as the 1990s (S. Hall, upubl. data). While vigorous populations of Exyra fax still exist on several large areas of habitat located on military lands, state parks, game lands, and private nature preserves, all of those are dependent on appropriate use of prescribed burning to support their metapopulations. At least one large tract of Low Pocosin and other peatland habitats -- located within the National Wildlife Refuges on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula -- is highly threatened by salt-water intrusion associated with sea-level rise. Given these trends, this species has a high conservation concern in North Carolina, particularly in the Piedmont -- where it now may be completely extipated -- and the Fall-line Sandhills.

 Photo Gallery for Exyra fax - Epauletted Pitcher-plant Moth

Photos: 2

Recorded by: SPH on 1993-06-12
Montgomery Co.
Recorded by: SPH on 1993-06-12
Montgomery Co.