Hemileuca maia - (Drury, 1773)
Eastern Buckmoth
Other English Common Names: eastern buckmoth
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.115027
Element Code: IILEW0M040
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
Taxonomic Comments: A complex, polytypic species. Almost every northern population cluster is a little different at least in larval color. Biological differences between some populations are also substantial but all feed primarily on oak. Populations north of 39 deg. N. are isolated and mostly separable as larvae. For now, three subspecies are recognized in this database, two in most literature. Subspecies H. maia peigleri in central Texas is isolated, distinctive and possibly a separate species. Coastal barrens (Cape Cod-Long Island) populations are the next most distinctive and are also treated separately in this database. Strictly speaking these are probably the nominotypical populations of the species since the Type from "New York" almost certainly came from Long Island. Populations from peninsular Florida need to be critically examined. Otherwise extreme northern populations such as around Albany, New York, Montague, Massachusetts and probably a few (5-10) other places from Maine to Barry County, Michigan can be characterized by having the darkest variants of larvae fixed at nearly or quite 100% of the population and their adults are relatively normal, specifically not small or as translucent as the coastal barrens version. Such dark larval morphs occur at lower frequencies widely farther south (but apparently not on Long Island and coastal New England). It does not seem warranted to cite such a lack of larval variation as a basis for subspecies status for Albany and Montague populations. Too few larvae have been seen from other inland populations north of Pennsylvania and southern Ohio to characterize them, but one last instar from Michigan is fairly dark with no obvious stripes. Populations north and east of New Jersey show a very strong preference for shrub oaks (Quercus ilicifolia, Q. prinoides) for oviposition. Those in southern New Jersey west and south apparently use almost any oak in the habitat with little preference and do not disproportionally select Q. ilicifolia even where it is readily available.

Wetland populations (mostly willow feeding) are completely pre-zygotically isolated from MAIA by incompatible pheromone and generally easily separable as eggs, larvae, and more than 98% of examples by a lack of a waxy cuticle on the pupa--in addition to the obvious major habitat differences. These are the Great Lakes populations populations of Tuskes et al. (1996). Such populations grade across Wisconsin into the taxon H. latifascia, almost universally synonymized with H. nevadensis by recent workers. The oldest name in the complex is Hemileuca maia and so Tuskes et al. are perfectly justified in calling this entire assemblage the maia complex. This does not infer, and they do not claim, that any such populations are H. maia. It appears that use of oaks as the primary foodplant is a constant in all populations of H. maia. So east of Texas use of oak as the primary foodplant may be used as a working definition for H. MAIA if one cannot asses other characters.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 29Apr2005
Global Status Last Changed: 05May2000
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Although listed as endangered or threatened in several northeastern states, overall this is a common species and quite adaptable in some parts of its range. A subspecies from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Long Island, New York and PEIGLERI are of conservation concern, as is the species as a whole in Michigan, Pennsylvania and north and east of New Jersey.
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), Arkansas (SNR), Connecticut (S1), Delaware (S3), Florida (SNR), Georgia (SNR), Illinois (S1), Indiana (SNR), Kansas (SNR), Kentucky (SNR), Louisiana (SNR), Maine (S1), Maryland (S4), Massachusetts (S2S3), Michigan (S2S3), Mississippi (SNR), Missouri (SNR), New Hampshire (SH), New Jersey (SNR), New York (SNR), North Carolina (SNR), Ohio (SNR), Oklahoma (S4?), Pennsylvania (S1S2), Rhode Island (SNR), South Carolina (SNR), Texas (SNR), Virginia (SNR), 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: Massachusetts, formerly New Hampshire, and probably currently southern Maine, west in very scattered colonies across New York, Pennsylvania and Barry County Michigan (an oak associated population adults and larvae verified by Schweitzer). South of about 39-40 degrees north much more widespread from southern New Jersey west through southern Ohio and southern Indiana to Missouri south to Texas. In the southern mountains fairly generally to Georgia. Status on the piedmont much less clear and apparently local in the coastal plain south of the DELMARVA peninsula. Widespread but status unclear in Florida. Falsely reported from Wisconsin and northern Illionois and elsewhere in the upper Midwest. See "HEMILEUCA species 3".

Number of Occurrences: > 300

Population Size: >1,000,000 individuals

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Very many (>125)

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Isolated pine barrens populations are threatened, vulnerable or extirpated north of about Latitude 40, but common in some more southern areas. Attains minor pest status in a few southern cities (e.g. Baton Rouge) on live oaks and was briefly an outbreak pest around 1990 on the Delmarva soon after massive gypsy moth control efforts with Dimilin obliterated local oak woods Lepidoptera fauna and presumably parasitoids that utilized them. H. MAIA has never been reported as destructive anywhere in any natural situation.

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)

Long-term Trend: Decline of 30-50%

Environmental Specificity: Moderate. Generalist or community with some key requirements scarce.
Environmental Specificity Comments: Very specialized in northernmost parts of range but from New Jersey to Missouri, Florida and Louisiana buckmoths can occur rather widely in a variety of usually dry oak dominated, or sometimes even mixed hardwood, forests and woodlands and in Louisiana also in urban areas.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Massachusetts, formerly New Hampshire, and probably currently southern Maine, west in very scattered colonies across New York, Pennsylvania and Barry County Michigan (an oak associated population adults and larvae verified by Schweitzer). South of about 39-40 degrees north much more widespread from southern New Jersey west through southern Ohio and southern Indiana to Missouri south to Texas. In the southern mountains fairly generally to Georgia. Status on the piedmont much less clear and apparently local in the coastal plain south of the DELMARVA peninsula. Widespread but status unclear in Florida. Falsely reported from Wisconsin and northern Illionois and elsewhere in the upper Midwest. See "HEMILEUCA species 3".

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.
Endemism: endemic to a single nation

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

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CT Hartford (09003)*, Windham (09015)
MA Barnstable (25001), Bristol (25005)*, Dukes (25007), Essex (25009)*, Franklin (25011), Middlesex (25017)*, Nantucket (25019), Norfolk (25021)*, Plymouth (25023)
MD Allegany (24001), Calvert (24009), Cecil (24015), Montgomery (24031)
NY Albany (36001), Orange (36071), Suffolk (36103), Sullivan (36105), Warren (36113)
OH Adams (39001), Highland (39071)
PA Centre (42027), Chester (42029), Lackawanna (42069), Lancaster (42071), Luzerne (42079), Monroe (42089), Philadelphia (42101)*, Pike (42103)
RI Kent (44003), Washington (44009)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Middle Connecticut (01080201)+, Lower Connecticut (01080205)+*, Cape Cod (01090002)+, Narragansett (01090004)+, Pawcatuck-Wood (01090005)+, Quinebaug (01100001)+
02 Hudson-Hoosic (02020003)+, Mohawk (02020004)+, Middle Hudson (02020006)+, Northern Long Island (02030201)+, Southern Long Island (02030202)+, Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead (02040104)+, Schuylkill (02040203)+*, Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna (02050107)+, Upper Juniata (02050302)+, Lower Susquehanna (02050306)+, Patuxent (02060006)+, Cacapon-Town (02070003)+, Middle Potomac-Catoctin (02070008)+
04 Mettawee River (04150401)+
05 Lower Scioto (05060002)+, Ohio Brush-Whiteoak (05090201)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Habitat Type: Terrestrial
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Adult Food Habits: Nonfeeding
Food Comments: Caterpillar Hosts: Various oaks including scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia), live oak (Q. virginiana), blackjack oak (Q. marilandica), and dwarf chestnut oak (Q. prinoides). Adult Food: Adults do not feed (Lotts and Naberhaus 2017).
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Hemileuca in part: Oak Feeding Taxa

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: An oak stand where the species occurs, or has occurred, where there is potential for continued occurrence or regular recurrence. Minimally suitable oak woodland, forest, or barrens communities where the species has been verified with sufficient habitat to sustain a population. Sufficient habitat will very seldom to never be under 100 hectares and usually more than 500 and at least with H. MAIA occurrences can be hundreds of thousands of hectares. Good occurrences will generally occupy thousands of hectares. Verification standards need to be locally appropriate. For most of the eastern USA there is only one HEMILEUCA species possible so confident generic identification is enough but beware of non-experts confusing Nymphalid and HEMILEUCA larvae. However, in New England one must be more careful since H. LUCINA strays into pine barrens and even rarely oviposits on scrub oak when it grows near wetlands. Similarly in the upper Midwest adults of the NEVADENSIS complex can stray and in the southwestern USA more than one oak feeder occurs in some counties (see range maps in Tuskes et al., 1996, pp. 113 and 129). Plus older larvae of other species may wander to oaks and perhaps feed on them briefly before moving on. If more than one species is possible, an actual adult specimen, or preferably several, or specimens or photos of several last instar larvae should be the basis for any EO. See Tuskes et al. (1996) for separation details. In general though if several early instar larval clusters or egg rings are seen on oaks and only one oak feeding buckmoth is possible in the area then that is sufficient verification. Specimens or at least good photographs would of course be taken.
Mapping Guidance: With H. MAIA locally specific habitat information may need to be considered in mapping. For example habitat parameters appropriate for southern New Jersey and the Appalachians would be grossly inappropriate farther north where the species is an extreme habitat specialist. It is quite possible there is similar variation in some of the more western taxa. Where subspecies are recognized apply appropriate habitat criteria. See habitat and food comments fields for guidance when mapping. In all cases where the habitat is a recognizable community type such as pitch pine-scrub oak barrens in New England and New York or where an occurrence is widespread in the oak zone of arid mountain range, the boundaries for the community and the buckmoth occurrence will be similar. However, in some cases the more closed canopy parts of pine barrens can be excluded.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 4 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 20 km
Alternate Separation Procedure: Do not use the unsuitable habitat distance within remnants of a degraded pine barren or other scrub community. Atr minimum consider twice that distance and the suitable habitat distance seems more appropriate if any scraps of the local foodplant/habitat remain.

Mapping of discrete units would be absolutely arbitrary in southern New Jersey but the species is too common to be of concern there. Mapping could be similarly difficult in the southern Appalachians and possibly some southwestern mountain ranges. The goal might be better regarded as mapping the best habitats rather than all occupied habitat for an occurrence by arbitrarily using the unsuitable habitat distance across marginal habitats even though these do support some larvae.. For example while the genus does occur and breed in mesic oak-hickory-tulip tree Appalachian forests these are not nearly as productive as the drier ridgetops nearby. One could then map the most xeric ridgetop oak woodland types and apply the suitable habitat separation distance between these optimum habitats across more mesic occupied but suboptimal habitats. Similarly in southern NJ H. maia is not really absent in swamps that contain some oaks but desnities are low and use of the unsuitable habitat distance would provide some basis for separation. A similar rationale might work to define separate occurrences for more western taxa.

Separation Justification: These tend to be landscape level moths if habitat is at all extensive and short distances between EOs would be unrealistic. The suitable habitat distance could probably be covered by any except a fully gravid female in an hour of sustained flight. Both sexes of these moths are capable of flights of at least a few km, including gravid females especially after they have laid one egg ring. While information on other species is minimal it is assumed that observations for H. MAIA would apply. In southern New Jersey it is fairly routine to see either sex one to five kilometers out of habitat. Even with the tiny population at Albany, New York small scrub oak patches a kilometer or more from the main habitat occasionally had egg rings back in the late 1970s. It is likely that populations in desert mountain ranges are widespread enough in the oak zones that each range in effect supports one metapopulation. Nevertheless some arbitrary distances are needed. In areas where these moths are likely to be of conservation interest there may be a need to define more or less discrete occurrences. However if the landscape context is such that marginal habitats with patches of foodplant occur between two collection points use the 20 km distance.
At least with H. MAIA MAIA and the northern coastal "subspecies 5" the concept of unoccupied suitable habitat contiguous to occupied habitat is moot. Schweitzer could find no unoccupied suitable habitat in southern New Jersey and even an isolate habitat over 20 km disjunct is occupied. Unoccupied suitable habitat was also not found in southeastern Massachusetts and the same seems to be true on Long Island, New York. So collection points separated by suitable habitat represent one occurrence really up to any distance but an arbitrary cap is suggested. Populations apparently always occupy available habitat fully although it is common for densities to vary over both time and space and possible that patchy temporary absences occur. Actually a distance of 100 kilometers separation distance over suitable habitat could easily be justified in southern New Jersey and probably elsewhere, but such a distance is simply not practical. There is no such information for other taxa but for now it seems prudent to apply the same logic and distances.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 2 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: these moths occupy substantial habitats and while they are often patchily more or less abundant within them from year to year, patches are generally permanently occupied (by dormant pupae should local eradication of an egg or larval cohort occur). For H. MAIA two occurrences near Enfield Connecticut and in Chester County, Pennsylvania are known to be less 400 hectare (the area defined by radius 1 km) but the former was recently larger and probably is doomed and the latter may be part of a metapopulation. No case is known where a population fails to occupy at least 1000 hectares(roughly radius 1.8 km) if the habitat is that large. Do not infer presence in unsuitable habitat based on botanically derived community definitions or maps if the species is known to be more specific. For example pine barrens populations may not occupy the more shaded portions. For now it is assumed that more western taxa also occur fairly widely in extensive oak scrub or woodlands.
Date: 05Sep2001
Author: Schweitzer, Dale F.
Notes: These Specs are definitely appropriate for HEMILEUCA MAIA MAIA and H. MIAIA "subsp 5". They are assumed appropriate for other populations of that species which also occur in xeric oak woodlands or scrub. For now they should be used for all of the oak feeding buckmoths.
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: 05May2000
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: 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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  • Lotts, K., and T. Naberhaus, coordinators. 2017. Butterflies and Moths of North America. Available online: http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/ (Version December 2018).

  • Panzer, Ron, Karl Gnaedinger and George Derkovitz. 2005. Survey of Conservative Species Richness Within the Lake Michigan Basin 2004-2005. 68 pp.

  • Stamp, N.E. and M.D. Bowers. 1986. Growth of the buckmoths Hemileuca lucina and H. maia (Saturniidae) on their own and on each other's host plants. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 40(3):214-215.

  • 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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