Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFGeometridae Members: 35 NC Records

Paleacrita vernata (Peck, 1795) - Spring Cankerworm Moth



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Taxonomy
Superfamily: Geometroidea Family: GeometridaeSubfamily: EnnominaeTribe: BistoniniP3 Number: 911083.00 MONA Number: 6662.00
Comments: The genus is limited to North America and contains three species of which two occur in North Carolina.
Species Status: A single specimen from North Carolina has been barcoded and is quite similar to individuals from Canada and the US.
Identification
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984); Beadle and Leckie (2012)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1948); Rindge (1975)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Forbes (1948); Wagner et al. (2001); Wagner (2005)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: Our two species look unlike most other geometrids and can be distinguished by the light reniform spot in P. merriccata which is absent in P. vernata. Females of both species are flightless. In vernata, the females are colored similarly to the males -- mostly pale gray but with a dark dorsal stripe in some individuals (Rindge, 1975). The ends of the tarsal joints are often grayish white, contrasting with the dark brown legs; in merricata, the ends of the joints are only weakly contrasting, if at all (Rindge, 1975).
Forewing Length: 11-18 mm, males; < 1mm, females (Rindge, 1975)
Adult Structural Features: The male reproductive structures are abundantly different from those of P. merriccata. There is an abundance of spines on the dorsal surface of the pelt which may be involved in heat capture and retention.
Structural photos
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: The caterpillars are twig mimics and in their early stages are known to descend on a long silken thread which may carry them in the wind to adjacent trees, an adaptation no doubt to compensate for the flightless females. The coloration of the larvae is quite variable, but the head possess a distinctive transverse bar and segment A8 has two small warts (Wagner, 2005).
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Probably occurs statewide
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: This is one of our "winter" moths, active when most other moth species are surviving in the egg, young larval, or pupal stages.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Found throughout the state in wooded areas, particularly in urban areas. Far less common in isolated woodlands.
Larval Host Plants: Polyphagus consuming a wide variety of hardwood trees with oaks being a favorite.
Observation Methods: Adults come to light but not to bait. Females are difficult to locate but perch on tree trunks where they will deposit the egg clutches. Adults are often seen at convenience stores where they are the only moths that come to the lights in January and February.
Wikipedia
See also Habitat Account for General Hardwood Forests
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: GNR [S5?]
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: Since few people are searching for moths during cold days in January and February, our records undoubtedly under represent the species status in our state. The causes of population outbreaks and their absence in rural areas are unknown. Flightlessness may allow females to produce more eggs and to attract less attention from predators for otherwise it would seem to be a poor strategy. Much remains to be learned about this interesting species.

 Photo Gallery for Paleacrita vernata - Spring Cankerworm Moth

Photos: 25

Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2021-03-12
Guilford Co.
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Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2021-02-10
Guilford Co.
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Recorded by: Simpson Eason on 2021-01-22
Durham Co.
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Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2021-01-22
Guilford Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-01-14
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-01-12
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2020-03-11
Guilford Co.
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Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2020-02-25
Guilford Co.
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Recorded by: Simpson Eason on 2020-02-05
Durham Co.
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Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2019-02-21
Guilford Co.
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Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2019-02-21
Guilford Co.
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Recorded by: Stephen Hall on 2018-02-20
Orange Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Hall on 2015-02-08
Orange Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Hall on 2015-02-08
Orange Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Hall on 2015-01-20
Orange Co.
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Recorded by: T. DeSantis on 2014-02-23
Durham Co.
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Recorded by: Lenny Lampel on 2013-01-11
Mecklenburg Co.
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Recorded by: Darryl Willis on 2012-02-11
Cabarrus Co.
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Recorded by: Paul Scharf on 2011-11-26
Warren Co.
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Recorded by: Vin Stanton on 2011-02-18
Buncombe Co.
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Recorded by: Vin Stanton on 2011-01-29
Buncombe Co.
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Recorded by: Paul Scharf on 2011-01-25
Warren Co.
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Recorded by: Paul Scharf on 2010-01-24
Warren Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Hall on 2009-02-18
Orange Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Hall on 2008-02-03
Orange Co.
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