Catocala grisatra - Brower, 1936
Grisatra Underwing
Other English Common Names: grisatra underwing
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.116189
Element Code: IILEY89A80
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Invertebrates - Insects - Butterflies and Moths - Underwing Moths
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Mandibulata Insecta Lepidoptera Erebidae Catocala
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Gall, L.F. and D.C. Hawks. 2010. Systematics of moths in the genus Catocala (Lepidoptera, Erebidae) IV. Nomenclatorial stabilization of the Nearctic fauna, with a revised synonymic check list. In: Schmidt B.C, Lafontaine J.D (Eds). Contributions to the systematics of New World macro-moths II. ZooKeys 39:37-83.
Concept Reference Code: A10GAL01EHUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Catocala grisatra
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G1G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 18May2005
Global Status Last Changed: 18Feb2005
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: Restricted range, specialized, threatened, and declining, habitat often incompatibly managed or deliberately suppressed. There are almost certainly more than the few known sites, but more than 50-100 good ones seem unlikely within the known range, and far less than that are actually known. Threats to some undiscovered populations seem likely to be severe. Species might be threatened or excluded outright by prevalent management practices on some to most "protected" sites. More information is needed both on number of occurrences and compatibility of various management regimens (i.e. degree of protection vs. threat from fire on preserves etc.) before the global rank can be narrowed. Extant occurrences are known in only one of the three states where this has been collected in the past. Kimball (1965) knew of no additional Florida specimens since the 1936 description, but active amateur collectors have found a few occurrences since 1980. Apparently this species has only had two known occurrences outside of Florida and neither is known extant now. Based on what is known this species would be G1 (critically imperiled) or G2 (imperiled) but collecting efforts within the southeast have been sporadic enough that this species perhaps ranges more widely to the west and/or has numerous undiscovered occurrences. The range rank reflects the possibility this species is merely rare in terms of number of occurrences, but not imperiled but that G1 really cannot be ruled out.
Nation: United States
National Status: N2N3 (18Aug2000)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Florida (S1), Georgia (SNR), North Carolina (S1S2)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 250-2,500,000 square km (about 100-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Found recently on a sandhill in Bladen County, North Carolina (Cromartie and Schweitzer, 1997); otherwise known only from northern Florida and Georgia (historic at Athens). Obviously should occur in South Carolina and probably Alabama, but probably not as widespread as the foodplant. The immediate North Carolina collection site was completely destroyed by herbiciding to make way for a pine plantation in 2004, although the full extent of the occurrence was unknown. So this species is actually known extant only in Florida. A polygon encompassing the known range might or might not overestimate the tru current range by several orders of magnitude so U is chosen.

Area of Occupancy: 3-2,500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments:  

Number of Occurrences: 6 - 80
Number of Occurrences Comments: 5 EOs known, 3 probably current (2 in FL, 1 in NC). One is in Gainesville, FL & will probably be, or has been, destroyed. North Carolina occurrence was partially or possibly fully destroyed by herbicides in 2004. Limited collecting efforts in GA where most EOS should exist, and inadequate collecting effort in most of rest of range. More EOs surely exist.

Population Size: 1000 - 10,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Seems to be rare whenever it is found.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Unknown

Overall Threat Impact: Very high - high
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Potential habitat is being rapidly lost to development and especially to conversion to pine plantations. "Preserved" habitat may be subject to too much fire to sustain this species. Habitat is almost universally disliked by managers, whether conservation oriented botanists or foresters, who prefer more open savanna. Good habitat for this and many sand hills moths is typically regarded as fire suppressed and prescribed burning recommended. If hawthorns are top killed it is probably several years before the habitat is again available and recovery time could be longer than the burn rotation. While there is no direct evidence, fire seems very likely as a factor in the rarity of this species since, either incidentally or intentionally, frequent burning probably suppresses scrub which could support this moth and also kills any stages present at the time. Another potential threat of unknown significance is closure of "protected" areas to collectors. This assures that any unknown occurrences will remain unknown and therefore increases the chance they may be wiped out by management activities.

Short-term Trend: Decline of 10-30%
Short-term Trend Comments: There are no real data, but this species obviously has suffered from habitat loss and fragmentation especially in FL. It is also highly likely that aggressive fire regimens commonly practiced in the range have reduced this species and continue to. Part or all of the North Carolina occurrence was obliterated by herbicides in 2004.

Long-term Trend: Decline of 50-90%
Long-term Trend Comments: Based on loss over apparent habitat this species has been reduced by more than half but not 99%.

Environmental Specificity: Narrow to moderate.
Environmental Specificity Comments: This species needs on Crataegus flava (J. Slotten) which is a common southern hawthorn. however the moth is much rarer and has a much smaller range, suggesting it might have other habitat requirements related to xeric sandhill scrub.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Look for more EOs. Larvae may be less difficult to find than adults. Until recently several amateur Lepidopterists were doing some inventory for this and not finding many EOs. If legal restriction are relaxed in SPs etc. this is likely to resume. TNC should strongly consider working with some of these Lepidopterists toward inventory and monitoring of this genus at Appalachicola Bluffs and elsewhere. Obviously this would involve collecting.

Protection Needs: Greatest need is to preserve and properly manage habitat.

Distribution
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Global Range: (250-2,500,000 square km (about 100-1,000,000 square miles)) Found recently on a sandhill in Bladen County, North Carolina (Cromartie and Schweitzer, 1997); otherwise known only from northern Florida and Georgia (historic at Athens). Obviously should occur in South Carolina and probably Alabama, but probably not as widespread as the foodplant. The immediate North Carolina collection site was completely destroyed by herbiciding to make way for a pine plantation in 2004, although the full extent of the occurrence was unknown. So this species is actually known extant only in Florida. A polygon encompassing the known range might or might not overestimate the tru current range by several orders of magnitude so U is chosen.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: endemic to a single nation

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States FL, GA, NC

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
NC Bladen (37017)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Black (03030006)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: One of the underwing moths
General Description: A medium sized underwing moth. Forewing uniform dull bluish gray with heavy but fine dark dusting, complete but not strong pattern. Hindwing orange yellow with the usual two dark brown bands.
Diagnostic Characteristics: This species should not be confused with any other by an experienced collector looking at an actual specimen, and should always be documented with at least one. So few specimens have actually been collected that range of variation is uncertain. Generally the weakly patterned forewing with dark dusting concentrated along the inner margin (as in C. crataegi but faint) and as an arc through the reniform to the outer margin of the forewing in combination with the usual orange and black hindwing pattern for this species group and slightly larger size than similar species should be distinctive with a specimen. The shade of gray is also distinctive with a fresh specimen. A field photograph showing only the forewings and thorax of a less than fresh specimen at rest might or might not be identifiable, even if one could assume the color is exactly right. Without a scale for size a photo, especially of a worn individual, could be hard to separate from some individuals of the highly variable "southern C. crataegi" and more so from frosted southern variants of C. praeclara and both have a similar basal dash. The larva has not been described but is known to resemble others of this group. An old specimen is illustrated by Sargent (1976) and illustrations might be found on a few websites.
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Presumably somewhat dispersive, but adults too rarely collected to say more.
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Conifer, Forest - Mixed, Savanna, Woodland - Mixed
Habitat Comments: What little that is known about this species comes from a few amateur collectors active in northern Florida in or after the 1980s. There is no useful literature on the species. As far as known the habitat is xeric, usually sand hill, pine-oak woodland or savanna with a substantial number of hawthorns (Crataegus flava, fide Jeffrey Slotten) in the understory. Populations might well occur in other dry situations with a lot of hawthorn. The North Carolina site was reported (W.J.Cromartie pers. comm. to Schweitzer) as not showing any obvious sign of recent fire--which may be important. Some Florida sites burn occasionally. It is likely, but not known, that recently burned sites are unsuitable until the hawthorns have recovered sufficiently to flower. Thus this species might be much more likely on "idle land" than on excessively managed preserves.
Adult Food Habits: Unknown
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: As with most of genus adult feeding habits poorly known, but they do feed. They will take a variety of sweet substances and might occasionally visit flowers. Probably feed off honeydew, sap flows etc. Larvae eat mainly new spring foliage and feed only on certain hawthorns (Crataegus spp.). It is not clear precisely which group of hawthorns is used, or if it matters. Perhaps any species of the genus present is acceptable.
Adult Phenology: Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: As in all Catocala worldwide eggs hibernate and there is only one brood. Adults of this one apparently appear a bit later than most Rosaceae feeding species. Adults reported in mid June at Athens, Georgia and June 25 (one of the two worn) in Bladen County, North Carolina. Apparently about mid May into June in northern Florida. Adults almost certainly live less than a month. Allowing for a typical 3 week pupal stage and a larval period of a month or slightly more, larvae would begin feeding about mid March in Florida and probably about mid April in North Carolina, maturing about a month to perhaps six weeks later. This species definitely is later in the season than other southern CRATAEGUS feeders, probably an adaptation to its xeric habitat where most trees leaf out a bit late.
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: Documentation of preferences, if any, for mature flowering hawthorns versus post-fire sprouts would be needed to suggest appropriate management. Several, but not all, related species prefer flowers or even unripe fruits or relatively large plants (Schweitzer) and are excluded for several years after fires. However, it is not impossible this species actually prefers, or at least will utilize, sprouts. Based on what little is known about this species, the main need is to maintain understory scrub, probably especially relatively mature hawthorns, in xeric pinelands. This may be incompatible with popular fire regimens. Fire itself is likely to kill any stage present regardless of season.
Biological Research Needs: Much more information on impact of fire is needed on this species. Some issues that need to be addressed include the number of years after a top killing fire until the hawthorns are again suitable for use, the number of years it actually takes for populations to recover to pre-fire levels after a fire, when/if does a habitat become too fire suppressed, and exactly what species (or taxonomic sections) of hawthorns are used. Need a better idea of percentage of seemingly suitable habitats that are actually occupied. Need some idea of typical year to year fluctuations in numbers. Need to work out a reliable sampling procedure for monitoring.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Catocala Moths: most Rosaceae and Ericaceae feeders

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: A location where the species occurs, or has recently occurred, with potential for persistence or regular recurrence. Minimally a suitable habitat with larval foodplant where the species has been documented by a specimen or positively identifiable photograph of an adult and for some species larvae are also identifiable.
Mapping Guidance: Occasionally, especially with species feeding on Aronia, the habitat may be very clear, for example around the edges of a Midwestern bog or a palustrine forest in New Jersey. Adults of most of these species wander some distance from foodplants in forests, especially swamp species seem to often move into immediately adjacent upland forsts probably to feed. In such cases use the habitat where the foodplant occurs plus 100 meter wooded buffer (if available) as the EO.
Separation Barriers: None known or suspected
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 2 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Alternate Separation Procedure: These species often occur in well defined natural communities such as bogs, riparian forests, barrens or savannas on a generally wooded landscape. In such cases apply the suitable habitat distance across suboptimal wooded or brushy habitat if the larval foodplant is not completely absent over distances of > half the suitable habitat distance, except if the habitat is demonstrably unsuitable in some way for the adults. Females of this group do move around and both sexes rest in the woods even if the breeding habitat is open.
Separation Justification: There are no data on movements of these moths but in general the adults occur ubiquitously within the habitat where the foodplants grow but are seldom found more than a few hundred meters from it. When the breeding habitat is swamp forest adults may move slightly into surrounding drier forests at night apparently to feed. When the habitats is suburban yards adults often occur in adjacent woods, which probably offer better daytime resting areas, even when the foodplant does not. The same is probably true when the foodplants are growing mostly in successional old fields or pastures. However these moths are often localized and do seem to stay in the vicinity of the larval foodplants or at least in nearby woods. Dale Schweitzer knowns of no instance where any of these species has been taken as much as two kilometers out of habitat, although they commonly occur in marginal habitats. He lives about 3km from high quality occupied habitat and half a km from marginal habitat for several of these species and baits almost nightly in season. He does occasionally get C. gracilis and has had one pretiosa in 16 seasons, but andromedae (most common member of the group) and praeclara never. Obviously adults are not venturing out of their habitat. On the other hand C. grynea which had been about one per decade became common two years after the town planted numerous ornamental curbside crabapples, a preferred foodplant. Note though if the habitat is wooded and merely has a lower (but not zero) density of foodplant than adjacent areas it is still suitable for the adults. As with almost all CATOCALA, general experience is that populations do occupy available contiguous habitat even where it is extensive, and in the core of theri ranges some of thses species typically occur in tracts of more than 500 hectares. Aadults move widely within habitat at night even if they concentrate in local areas in the daytime. There is little chance two collections 10 kilometers apart within contiguous suitable (usually wooded) habitat would represent two occurrences and adults would almost certainly be readily found thoughout at varying densities in good years, but some practical arbitrary separation distance is needed when data are not available.
Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 2 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Habits for populations in suburban residential areas are hard to define, but otherwise the smallest habitat known to Schweitzer to have supported a fully contained occurrence of any of these species was about 1.0 square miles for C. gracilis in Pennsylvania. However habitat patches are often much smaller but clustered a few hundred meters or less apart in mostly wooded context obviously forming metapopulations. A few isolated bog occurrences, eg. in Ohio, might be smaller but the habitat in such cases includes the surrounding woods, not just the bog. When the habitat is under 1000 hectares assume full occupancy. Occurrences can be virtually undefinable in extensive forests that go for hundreds of kilometers in which the foodplant is sparsely scattered throughout--for example in northern New England with C. c. crataegi or C.blandula utilizing naturalized apple trees and C. gracilis and C. andromedae in many acid soil regions. So some arbitrary limit is need and 2 kilometers seems reasonable when data are lacking. However, if contiguous habitat is more extensive, in reality so is the occurrence for the Catocala. Anything smaller than 2km would be assuming a truly miniscule, if not insufficient, habitat for this group . Another consideration in recommending this relatively small distance is that usually one does not have good information on the extent of the foodplant, and often it is limited.
Date: 14Oct2005
Author: Schweitzer, D.F.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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Excellent Viability: A high quality sand hill or other xeric woodland/savanna with over hawthorns averaging one per acre or more and well distributed such that at least 2000 acres are unburned during any given year. Overall fire return interval must be long enough that hawthorns can recover after fire and reproduce well and prescribed burns or other expected fires should leave at least 1000 acres unburned in a typical five year period.
Good Viability: A high quality sandhill meeting most of the ASPECS but with only between 1000-2000 unburned acres in a normal year. Perhaps also larger tracts with fire return intervals of four years or where fires burn up to half the habitat in a typical five year period.
Fair Viability: Most sites where this species seems to persist, generally at low numbers. This would include large "pristine" communities with excessive fire frequencies such that hawthorns do not reach small tree size and/or do not often reproduce between fires. Unless fires are extremely light (see above) sites ranked C must not burn completely over any three year period.
Poor Viability: Sites subject to complete burns in two year periods. Most (but perhaps not all if unburned) habitats of under 50 acres. Most sites where the species eeems to be absent some years or that apparently seldom produce even 50 adults.
Justification: Insect eggs do not survive exposure to flame or high temperature. Other shrub feeding Catocala are known not to survive fires in this stage (e.g. Borth and Barina). Foodplants are usually very small trees or shrubs and they probably are not suitable for use for a year or two, possibly longer, after fires. Habitat burned since the previous summer is not occupied by immatures for the first year and possibly longer. Catocala in this species group fluctuate substantially from year to year and can vary 5-20 fold over a decade even with no obvious disturbance (see appendices in Sargent, 1976). Generally Catocala populations seem to be able to persist on a few hundred acres if the foodplant is well distributed. They may occupy much smaller habitats but probably do not persist in them during bad years.
Key for Ranking Species Element Occurrences Using the Generic Approach (2008).
Date: 15Feb2007
Author: Schweitzer, D.F.
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 18Feb2005
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Schweitzer, D.F.
Management Information Edition Date: 18Feb2005
Management Information Edition Author: Schweitzer, Dale F.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 18Feb2005
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): SCHWEITZER, D.F.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Borth, Robert J. and Thomas S. Barina, 1991. Observations of AMORPHA-feeding CATOCALA in Wisconsin. Journal of the Lepidopterists Society 45(4): 371-372.

  • Cromartie, W.J. and D. F. Schweitzer, 1997. Catocala, C. louisae, C. grisatra and C. jair in North Carolina. Entomological news 108(5):389-390.

  • Gall, L.F. and D.C. Hawks. 2010. Systematics of moths in the genus Catocala (Lepidoptera, Erebidae) IV. Nomenclatorial stabilization of the Nearctic fauna, with a revised synonymic check list. In: Schmidt B.C, Lafontaine J.D (Eds). Contributions to the systematics of New World macro-moths II. ZooKeys 39:37-83.

  • Gall, Lawrence, F. Database containing county level data for the North American species of Catocala moths. Entomology Division, Peabody Museum, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06511. Accessed 1994, July 1.

  • Kimball, C. P. 1965. The Lepidoptera of Florida. Arthropods of Florida and Neighboring Land Areas, Vol. 1. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Gainesville, Florida. 363 pp. and 26 plates.

  • Lafontaine, J.D. and B. C. Schmidt. 2010. Annotated check list of the Noctuoidea (Insecta, Lepidoptera) of North America north of Mexico. ZooKeys 40:1-239.

  • Sargent, T. D. 1976. Legion of Night: The Underwing Moths. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, MA. 222 pp. and 8 plates.

  • Schweitzer, D. F., M. C. Minno, and D. L. Wagner. 2011. Rare, declining, and poorly known butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) of forests and woodlands in the eastern United States. USFS Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team, Technology Transfer Bulletin FHTET-2011-01. 517 pp.

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