Hemileuca maia maia - (Drury, 1773)
Eastern Buckmoth
Synonym(s): Hemileuca maia ssp. 3 Schweitzer, unpublished ;Hemileuca maia ssp. 4 Schweitzer, unpublished
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.113872
Element Code: IILEW0M041
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Invertebrates - Insects - Butterflies and Moths - Giant Silkworm and Royal Moths
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Mandibulata Insecta Lepidoptera Saturniidae Hemileuca
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Tuskes, P. M., J. P. Tuttle, and M. M. Collins. 1996. The Wild Silk Moths of North America: A Natural History of the Saturniidae of the United States and Canada. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York. 250 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B96TUS01EHUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Hemileuca maia maia
Taxonomic Comments: The general literature recognizes only H. maia maia and H. maia peigleri and the name H. maia maia is applied to the entire species outside of Texas. In this database a distinctive northern coastal barrens buckmoth is also recognized (as subspecies 5) and technically it probably is typical H. maia maia. Most individuals of this can be identified easily by larval and adult appearance. A problem is created by the Type Locality for the species which is merely "New York" making it unclear exactly which version H. maia was named from. Most likely the Type for the species came from Long Island which would make it the coastal barrens version that occurs only from there to Plymouth, Massachusetts but it could have come from inland such as around Albany where more normal populations occur. If the specimen still exists and is in good condition it is possible it can be placed to subspecies despite being over 200 years old since Long Island and Albany area populations are quite different from each other. For simplicity the name Hemileuca maia maia is here used for the entire eastern US oak feeding buckmoth species except for subspecies 5 from southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Long Island New York and subspecies peigleri from central Texas. Evidence is ample that wetland populations from northern New Jersey to Wisconsin are not H. maia and are conspecific with and grade clinally into the taxon latifascia which all recent authors include as H. nevadensis.

Previous versions of this database have recognized additional subspecies of H. maia, but while some are very constant in appearance as last instar larvae, all seem to fit within the range of variation of more variable southern populations such those in southern New Jersey, southern Ohio, and the southern Appalachians, and as far as known all have normal heavily scaled adults that closely resemble southern populations. Populations around Albany, New York and in Franklin County, Massachusetts have very dark minimally patterned larvae that resemble the darkest variants among polymorphic southern larvae. The larval phenotype of historic populations in northeastern Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine is unknown. A single alcohol-preserved larva from a Barry County, Michigan sand plain population is heavily and uniformly sprinkled with pale, apparently resembling many southern New Jersey larvae. Pennsylvania larvae may be variable, but very few have been examined except from Chester County in the southeastern part of the state.

Populations in central and northern Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey northward and eastward differ from those in southern New Jersey and farther south and west by being strongly restricted to scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia) barrens mostly on sandy soils, regardless of phenotype (normal or subspecies 5). Apparently specialization to scrub oak habitats has evolved more than once and subspecies should not be based solely on habitat per se. D. Schweitzer
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5T5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 19May2000
Global Status Last Changed: 19May2000
Rounded Global Status: T5 - Secure
Reasons: Widespread. In New Jersey, Missouri and Appalachia not highly localized and uses a variety of common habitats, tolerant of disturbance, good colonizer. A minor shade tree pest in a few southern cities. For now seems secure, but status should be periodically re-evaluated as Comsilura spreads.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (19Oct2000)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (SNR), Connecticut (S1), Delaware (SU), Georgia (SNR), Illinois (SNR), Indiana (SNR), Kansas (SNR), Kentucky (SNR), Louisiana (SNR), Maine (S1), Maryland (S4), Massachusetts (S1), Mississippi (SNR), Missouri (SNR), New Hampshire (SH), New Jersey (S4), New York (S1S2), North Carolina (SNR), Ohio (SNR), Oklahoma (S4?), South Carolina (SNR), Virginia (S4), West Virginia (S4)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: As here defined this subspecies would include all populations of the species except those in coastal Massachusetts, Rhode Island and on Long Island, New York which are separated as subspecies 5 and those on the Edwards Plateau in Texas which are subspecies peigleri. The assignment of Florida populations to this subspecies is very tentative.

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Difficult to define occurrences. Tends to spread over large areas rather than form discrete colonies except at extreme north of the range.

Population Size: 10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Abundance and density can vary greatly between places and annual fluctuations can be substantial. Within large occurrences prone to shifting foci of abundance but usually present throughout all available habitat. While it can be a pest in southern cities on live oak and was a significant outbreak defoliator on the Delmarva peninsula around 1990 following massive disruption of spring forest fauna by Dimilin applications the species has never been reported as a signicant defoliating pest in any natural setting. In New Jersey it can be among the most common native caterpillars on oaks.

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Gypsy moth spraying would have to be widespread and sustained to eradicate better occurrences. The only known threat is the out of control biocontrol agent Comsilura concinnata (Diptera: Tachinidae) which could substantially impact this species and many other Saturniidae, Sphingidae, Notodontidae and others as it expands its range.

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Short-term Trend Comments: Severely declining and threatened north of and probably in Pennsylvania, but largely stable in New Jersey and southward.

Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: Versatile in habitat. Maintains pupal reserve in soil. Thus, populations survive catastrophes unless repeated in 2/3 yrs.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: This species should be monitored to some extent as Comsilura concinnata expands into new areas.

Protection Needs: None urgent.

Distribution
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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) As here defined this subspecies would include all populations of the species except those in coastal Massachusetts, Rhode Island and on Long Island, New York which are separated as subspecies 5 and those on the Edwards Plateau in Texas which are subspecies peigleri. The assignment of Florida populations to this subspecies is very tentative.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.

Map unavailable!:
Distribution data for U.S. states and Canadian provinces is known to be incomplete or has not been reviewed for this taxon.

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, CT, DE, GA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MO, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, SC, VA, WV

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CT Hartford (09003)*, Windham (09015)
MD Allegany (24001), Calvert (24009), Cecil (24015), Montgomery (24031)
NY Albany (36001), Orange (36071), Sullivan (36105), Warren (36113)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Lower Connecticut (01080205)+*, Quinebaug (01100001)+
02 Hudson-Hoosic (02020003)+, Mohawk (02020004)+, Middle Hudson (02020006)+, Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead (02040104)+, Lower Susquehanna (02050306)+, Patuxent (02060006)+, Cacapon-Town (02070003)+, Middle Potomac-Catoctin (02070008)+
04 Mettawee River (04150401)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: The buckmoth.
Diagnostic Characteristics: Adults large, thickly-scaled, often brownish. Larval pattern variable; whitish to nearly solid black.
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Habitat Comments: At northern extreme of range confined to sandy pitch pine-scrub oak barrens or nearly so. In New Jersey most often dry sandy oak-pine more or less closed canopy forest or woodland on sandy soils, usually with a mixture of tree oaks dominating; also pitch pine-scrub oak or blackjack oak scrub including dwarf pine plains. Usually dry oak or mixed forest or woodland in the Appalachians and lower Midwest. In Louisiana also urban settings with a lot of live oak. Occur on both rocky and sandy sites but almost always dry-mesic to xeric ones.
Adult Food Habits: Nonfeeding
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: Larvae feed primarily on oaks but will wander to and eat some other plants. In extreme north of range QUERCUS ILICIFOLIA and Q. PRINOIDES are the foodplants. In New Jersey all available oaks except scarlet oak are used regularly. There is no preference for scrub oak. White oak is perhaps most often used there. Egg rings seem to be most often placed on small oaks or low branches of larger ones, but some are in the forest canopy. In urban Louisiana the normal host is planted large live oaks.
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Phenology Comments: Adults occur in fall starting in late September or early October above 40 degrees North. In New Jersey a few as early as October 5-10 in northern parts of the Pine Barrens where the peak is probably October 15-20, but the earliest date in more southern Cumberland County is 17 October. They fly progressively later southward, mainly November in the Carolinas and into December in Louisiana. The flight season lasts about two weeks. Larvae feed in spring and grow slowly in the late instars, usually spending at least two months as larvae in New Jersey. Eggs usually hatch when the host oaks are in flower with leaves less than half expanded. Most pupae eclose in the first fall, but perhaps 40% overwinter one or two years and a tiny fraction even longer. Ancient reports of a spring flight are false.
Economic Attributes
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Economic Comments: Defoliating outbreaks have been reported, but never in anything approaching a natural forest system. This buckmoth can be a significant nuisance pest on live oaks in a few southern cities, and since the larvae sting they can be a minor nuisance in residential areas anywhere. Severe defoliation also began on the Delmarva peninsula about the time of massive Dimilin and BTK use against gypsy moth and in Delaware at least spraying has since been directed against buckmoth. As far as known Buckmoths were previously uncommon in that area. Undoubtedly larvae from eggs laid by moths from dormant prior year pupae had very good survival the year after spraying given the near lack of other caterpillars and certain natural enemies. However there is not a single instance of a damaging outbreak by this species in more natural settings including very similar woods across the Bay in New Jersey where the species is consistently common.
Management Summary
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Biological Research Needs: Work out taxonomy of eastern Hemileuca species & subspecies.
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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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: 06Jan1999
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Schweitzer, D.F.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 24May2000
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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  • Allen, T.J., J.P. Brock, and J. Glassberg. 2005. Caterpillars in the field and garden. Oxford University Press, New York. 232 pp.

  • Brock, J. P., and K. Kaufman. 2003. Butterflies of North America. Kaufman Focus Field Guides, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY 284 pp.

  • Cryan, John. 1985. Retreat in the barrens. Defenders. 60(1): 18-29.

  • Ferguson, D. C. 1971. Bombycoidea: Saturnidae, Citheroniinae and Hemileucinae. Part I. Moths of America North of Mexico, Fascicle 20.2B. E.W. Classey Ltd. and R.B.D. Publications, London, England.

  • NatureServe. 2007. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 6.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available http://www.natureserve.org/explorer. (Accessed: December 19, 2007).

  • Peacock, J. W., D. F. Schweitzer, J. L. Carter, and N. R. Dubois. 1998. Laboratory Assessment of the effects of Bacillus thuringiensis on native Lepidoptera. Environmental Entomology 27(2):450-457.

  • Tuskes, P. M., J. P. Tuttle, and M. M. Collins. 1996. The Wild Silk Moths of North America: A Natural History of the Saturniidae of the United States and Canada. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York. 250 pp.

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