Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFGeometridae Members: 111 NC Records

Cymatophora approximaria Hübner, [1812] - Giant Gray Moth



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Taxonomy
Superfamily: Geometroidea Family: GeometridaeSubfamily: EnnominaeTribe: AngeroniniP3 Number: 911170.00 MONA Number: 6745.00
Comments: This genus contains three species; two are neotropical, one occurs in North Carolina.
Species Status: Barcodes indicate a single species throughout the Southeast.
Identification
Field Guide Descriptions: Not in either Covell (1984) or Beadle and Leckie (2012)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONATechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1948; as Stenotrachelys approximaria)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Forbes (1948; as Stenotrachelys approximaria)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: Cymatophora is one of our largest Geometrids, similar in wingspan to Epimecis hortaria and the Lytrosis species and much larger than the other species loosely termed the Grays. Likely to be confused only with Epimecis, with which it barely overlaps in its fall flight period. Both species have broadly bipectinate antennae in the males, possess a similar gray ground color shaded with brown and darker striations, and have scalloped outer margins on their wings. Cymatophora is narrower-winged, however, and holds its wings more horizontally at rest, with the costa running at right angles to the body; Epimecis, in contrast, usually holds its forewings projecting forward at rest, with the costa running at an angle from the body. Both species possess well-marked lines on the wings, but these are black and single in Cymatophora and usually doubled in Epimecis and filled with white. The postmedian is strongly bent in both species but more dentate in Epimecis. The median line in Cymatophora is also sharply bent, coverging with the postmedian in the lower part of the wing; it is much straighter in Epimecis, although also coverging with the postmedian lower down. A strong, but diffuse subterminal line is usually present in Epimecis but lacking in Cymatophora.
Adult Structural Features: The male genitalia are unique and bear little resemblance to those of Lytrosis.
Structural photos
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: The caterpillar is variable in color (dark and light morphs) but has a black patch behind the second abdominal segment (and sometimes behind the first as well). It is likely that it passes the winter as an egg or young larva and develops in the spring when new foliage is present.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Principally a denizen of the Coastal Plain but also getting into the eastern Piedmont (Montgomery 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: Has a single flight in the fall. Howerver, a single adult was taken on May 1 in Carteret County -- clearly its biological clock was broken.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Occurs in a variety of habitats, but usually in habitats where hardwoods -- particularly oaks -- are present. The majority of our records come from Maritime Forest and Maritime Scrub habitats on the Barrier Islands or from similar mainland communities adjacent to the sounds; in all these habitats, evergreen oaks are likely hosts, including Live Oak (Quercus virginiana), Sand Live Oak (Q. geminata) and Sand Laurel Oak (Q. hemisphaerica). Sand Laurel Oak is the only one of these three that occurs farther inland, following the range of Cymatophora into the Fall-line Sandhills. However, we have recently documented Cymatophora in the Uwharrie Mountains region of the eastern Piedmont, beyond the range of Sand Laurel Oak. Other members of the Laurel Oak group could be used there (and elsewhere), including Willow Oak (Q. phellos) or Water Oak (Q. nigra). Those species, however, extend even farther to the west, leaving some other explanation (perhaps climate) as necessary to account for the restriction of Cymatophora strictly to the eastern part of the state. Greenbriers (Smilax sp.) have also been reported as host plants, and at least one species -- Smilax laurifolia -- has a range in North Carolina that is similar to that of Cymatophora. That species, however, occurs primarily in peatlands and swamp forests, areas where we have not found the moth, and other species are either more restricted or more widespread than the moth. Clearly more work is needed to determine both the host plants used by this species and its exact habitat requirements.
Larval Host Plants: Reported to feed on Live Oak and Smilax (Forbes, 1948) but as indicated in the discussion of Habitats, it seems likely to use a number of other oaks or a variety of Smilax species, all of which need to be documented.
Observation Methods: Adults come to lights but none have been seen at baits. At lights males are far more numerous than females. The life history of this species should be described. Captive females will probably lay eggs readily. Beating for caterpillars in the spring has not produced this species which is odd given its abundance in the fall.
Wikipedia
See also Habitat Account for Live Oak Forests and Maritime Scrub Thickets
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G4G5 [S4]
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: Locally common to abundant in Maritime Forests and other types of hardwood forests in the Coastal Plain and eastern Piedmont. Although somewhat specialized in terms of its habitats, it occurs over a broad area and in multiple habitat types and seems relatively secure in the state.

 Photo Gallery for Cymatophora approximaria - Giant Gray Moth

Photos: 13

Recorded by: R. Newman on 2020-10-23
Carteret Co.
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Recorded by: R. Newman on 2020-10-22
Carteret Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Hall and Bo Sullivan on 2020-10-14
Moore Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Hall and Bo Sullivan on 2020-10-13
Moore Co.
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Recorded by: Brian Bockhahn on 2019-10-23
New Hanover Co.
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Recorded by: Ed Corey on 2015-10-13
Bladen Co.
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Recorded by: B. Bockhahn on 2014-10-24
Dare Co.
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Recorded by: Britta Muiznieks on 2013-10-30
Dare Co.
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Recorded by: T. Desantis on 2011-10-18
Bladen Co.
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Recorded by: T. DeSantis on 2009-10-30
Wayne Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Hall on 2008-10-21
Hoke Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Hall on 2008-10-21
Hoke Co.
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Recorded by: Newman, Randy on 2005-11-05
Carteret Co.
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