Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFGeometridae Members: 35 NC Records

Heliomata infulata (Grote, 1863) - Rare Spring Moth



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Taxonomy
Superfamily: Geometroidea Family: GeometridaeSubfamily: EnnominaeTribe: MacariiniP3 Number: 910688.00 MONA Number: 6263.00
Comments: A small genus of 4 species of which three are North American and two occur in North Carolina. The remaining species is in central Europe. Ferguson (2008) moved this genus from the Abraxini to the Macariini.
Species Status: A specimen from North Carolina has been barcoded and nests with H. infulata from Maryland. All are well separated from specimens of H. cycladata.
Identification
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONATechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1948); Ferguson (2008)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Ferguson (2008)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: A small, pale yellow-and-black Geometrid that is likely to be confused with only a small number of other species. The overall pattern of dark and pale markings is most similar to Heliomata cycladata, but the pale bands on both wings are usually white or only slightly tinged with yellow in cycladata but usually completely pale yellow in infulata. The pale patch on the hindwing is also much broader in cycladata, usually wider than the dark bands on either side, whereas it is narrower in infulata, usually occupying a third or less of the wing (Forbes, 1948; Ferguson, 2008). Infulata often have a thin line of yellow located in the dark basal patch of the hindwing (J.B. Sullivan, pers. obs.). Cycladata on the other hand usually has a pale dorsal band at the base of the abdomen and a partially orange collar, both of which are missing in infulata; the outlines of the pale patches tend to be more irregular, whereas they are typically clean-cut in infulata (Ferguson, 2008). Sexes similar but females tend to be larger and darker than males. Generally, a good quality photo should be sufficient to identify this species. Foodplants in the vicinity will also help distinguish the species as this species feeds on R. hispida complex (including nana) whereas H. cycladata feeds on Robinia pseudoacacia.
Adult Structural Features: Generically distinct but the two species have similar genitalia. The males differ by the outer, curved portion of the valva which is shorter and less upcurved in H. infulata than in H. cycladata. The larger row of cornuti in the aedeagus appears to be made up of smaller spines than in H. cycladata. Males possess a fovea and a comb on the third abdominal sternum; the hind tibiae are also enlarged in the males (Ferguson, 2008).
Structural photos
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from photos showing hindwings, abdomen, or other specialized views [e.g., frons, palps, antennae, undersides].
Immatures and Development: Larvae were first discovered by J.B. Sullivan at Fort Bragg, NC (see Ferguson, 2008). Larvae are more boldly patterned than in H. cycladata with a reddish dorsal line on the green ground color. They lack the purplish patches found in cycladata and have a much weaker, pale subspiracular stripe (see illustration in Ferguson, 2008).
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Recorded primarily in the Fall-line Sandhills in North Carolina, with only a few records from the Mountains and from monadnocks in the Piedmont. Like the foodplants, the moths are noticeably colonial and not generally distributed. At some sites where the foodplant is present in adequate numbers the moth is absent. Additional distribution information needed.
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: Univoltine, flying in the spring and early summer
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Found wherever its foodplant (Robinia hispida and R. nana) grows, usually as low understory in xeric soils with a sparse overstory. Most of our records come from Longleaf Pine sandhills habitats in the Coastal Plain and Monadnock Forests in the Piedmont. Habitats were not recorded for other sites in the Piedmont and Mountains, but are all likely to be from dry, open woodlands, or from glades or barrens associated with rock outcrops.
Larval Host Plants: Stenophagous, feeding primarily or exclusively on species of shrub locusts, including Dwarf Bristly Locust (Robinia nana) in the Fall-line Sandhills as well as the Piedmont monadnocks, and probably on Bristly Locust (Robinia hispida) in the Mountains.
Observation Methods: Adults come readily to light traps and can be seen flying during the day. The bright pattern may indicate the adult is distasteful but no evidence has been presented to that effect.
Wikipedia
See also Habitat Account for General Dry-Xeric Hardwood Forests
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status: W3
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G3G4 S2S3
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: This species appears to be a habitat specialist, occurring primarily in open, sandy or rocky woodlands that support populations of dwarf locusts. In the Coastal Plain, these habitats are maintained by frequent fire, which is probably also true for the monadnocks and montane woodlands where it has also been found. Fire suppression, along with habitat conversion, has probably eliminated it from most of its former range, but too frequent burning of small remaining preserves may also lead to local extirpation. Careful management taking the needs of insects into account is urgently needed in order to protect remaining populations.

 Photo Gallery for Heliomata infulata - Rare Spring Moth

Photos: 18

Recorded by: Jim Petranka, Bo Sullivan and Steve Hall on 2021-05-11
Scotland Co.
Comment:
Recorded by: Jim Petranka, Bo Sullivan and Steve Hall on 2021-05-11
Scotland Co.
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Recorded by: Alicia Jackson on 2019-05-01
Harnett Co.
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Recorded by: Alicia Jackson on 2019-05-01
Harnett Co.
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Recorded by: Alan Krakauer on 2018-08-08
McDowell Co.
Comment: Photographed on Robinia hispida
Recorded by: Alan Krakauer on 2018-08-08
McDowell Co.
Comment: Photographed on Robinia hispida
Recorded by: Stephen Hall, Ed Corey, and Brian Bockhahn on 2017-05-17
Surry Co.
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Recorded by: J. A. Anderson on 2017-05-17
Surry Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Hall on 2016-04-28
Cumberland Co.
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Recorded by: Nathan Howell on 2014-05-03
Bladen Co.
Comment: Photographed on Robinia nana
Recorded by: ASH/NEW on 2013-05-07
Moore Co.
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Recorded by: G. Schepker on 2012-05-20
Surry Co.
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Recorded by: Ali Iyoob on 2010-05-02
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: ASH on 2007-04-25
Moore Co.
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Recorded by: ASH on 2006-04-20
Moore Co.
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Recorded by: T.B. Mitchell on 1957-06-06
Jackson Co.
Comment: NCSU Insect Museum specimen
Recorded by: C.S. Brimley on 1912-05-27
Haywood Co.
Comment: Three NCSU Insect Museum specimens from NCDA Collection, all apparently collected at the same date (exact dates not given on all of the labels, although all are stated to be from late May)
Recorded by: C.S. Brimley on 1912-05-27
Haywood Co.
Comment: Three NCSU Insect Museum specimens from NCDA Collection, all apparently collected at the same date (exact dates not given on all of the labels, although all are stated to be from late May)