Moths of North Carolina
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11 NC Records

Choristoneura houstonana (Grote, 1873) - Juniper Budworm Moth

Superfamily: Tortricoidea Family: TortricidaeSubfamily: TortricinaeTribe: ArchipiniP3 Number: 620313.00 MONA Number: 3647.00 MONA Synonym: Cudonigera houstonana
Field Guide Descriptions: Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONA, GBIFTechnical Description, Immature Stages: Heinrichs and Thompson (1968)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: This is a distinctive species with its set of raise scale patches on the forewing. The head, palps, antennae and thorax are light rusty brown, and the forewing is checkered with a series of raised, plate-like scale patches that can be rosy brown, rusty brown, yellowish-brown or light golden-white. The patches are delineated by darker lines around their perimeters to produce a reticulated pattern. The hindwing varies from white to light grayish-brown, with a slightly paler fringe.
Forewing Length: 7.5-11.0 mm (Powell and Opler, 2009)
Adult Structural Features: Powell and Opler (2009) note that the male genitalia are distinctive in having a broad hood-like uncus and short valvae. The female genitalia are also distinctive in having a strongly modified ninth tergum that forms a hood over the narrow papillae anales -- which are rotated 90 degrees.
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: Heinrichs and Thompson (1968) conducted a comprehensive life history study in Kansas where the larvae feed on Eastern Red Cedar. The adults and eggs first appear in July and the eggs are laid singly in crevices formed at the base where two juniper shoots meet. A female typically takes several days to deposit her entire clutch. On hatching, the first instar finds a suitable feeding site that is usually near the hatched egg at the base of two joining juniper shoots. It first spins silk between the two shoots, then chews an entrance hole through the leaf epidermis and mines the leaf. As it grows the larva mines additional leaves as well as the vascular tissue in the shoot axis as it works its way towards the shoot tip. The larva eventually spins a silken hibernaculum in the mine in late summer, molts to the fourth instar, then enters diapause and overwinter in the mine. The larvae resume mining with the spring warm-up, then shift to feeding externally. When feeding externally the larva webs together adjoining shoots and spins a silken tunnel in the webbed-together foliage. When feeding, the larvae leave the tunnel, removed entire leaves or shoots from the branches, and carry them back to the tunnel to feed. Pupation occurs in the silk tunnel in a loose-fitting cocoon that is spun by the last-instar larva. The shelter is closed at the end farthest from the branch base, while the opposite end of the shelter is left open for adult emergence. The adults emerge about nine days after the larvae pupate. The mature larvae are olive green with a dark reddish-brown head capsule and a yellowish-brown thoracic shield that is bordered laterally and posteriorly with a dark brown or black band (Heinrichs, 1971). The thoracis legs are brown.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: The range includes two allopatric groups: an Atlantic coastal group that occurs from New Hampshire southward to North Carolina, and a more western group that ranges from Mississippi and western Tennessee westward to Arizona and California, and northward to Nebraska, Kansas, and Arkansas. As of 2023, all of our records are from Ft. Macon State Park in Carteret County.
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: The adults have been observed from March through November in different areas of the range, with most from June through September. Local populations appear to have one or two broods per year. As of 2023, we have records from May through early June, and again from August through early September, which suggests two broods per year in North Carolina.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Populations in the Southwest are associated with pinyon-juniper woodlands and those in the east with Eastern Red Cedar and Southern Red Cedar. As of 2023, all of our records come from dunes on a barrier island where Southern Red Cedar is abundant.
Larval Host Plants: The larvae feed on several species of junipers (Heinrichs and Thompson, 1968; Brown et al., 2008) and rarely on Eastern Arbor-vitae (Thuja orientalis). Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is an important host in the east. Other known host include Chinese juniper (J. chinensis) and Rocky Mountain Juniper (J. scopulorum). At the one site where this species has been observed in North Carolina, it is associated with Southern Red Cedar (J. silicicola).
See also Habitat Account for General Cedar Woodlands
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.

 Photo Gallery for Choristoneura houstonana - Juniper Budworm Moth

Photos: 3

Recorded by: R. Newman on 2022-08-07
Carteret Co.
Recorded by: R. Newman on 2022-05-17
Carteret Co.
Recorded by: Newman, Randy on 2007-06-07
Carteret Co.