Lithophane lemmeri - (Barnes and Benjamin, 1929)
Lemmer's Noctuid Moth
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.111494
Element Code: IILEYFE150
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Invertebrates - Insects - Butterflies and Moths - Other Moths
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Mandibulata Insecta Lepidoptera Noctuidae Lithophane
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Hodges, R.W. et al., eds. 1983. Check List of the Lepidoptera of America North of Mexico. E.W. Classey Limited and The Wedge Entomological Research Foundation, London. 284 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B83HOD01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Lithophane lemmeri
Taxonomic Comments: An outlier of a complex of species in the southwest US; all feed on CUPRESSACEAE and the group seems to merit at least subgeneric status. Previous questions (e.g. see Schweitzer, 1989) regarding conspecificity of various east coast populations have been mostly resolved by him. Specimens from Missouri are a new species (very different male genitalia). Those from New Jersey and Connecticut to Florida and Mississippi are all true Lithophane lemmeri.
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G3G4
Global Status Last Reviewed: 06May2008
Global Status Last Changed: 10Apr1997
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: This moth may be widespread and secure in Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia where it is associated with red cedar. However, this is speculative and not supported by collections. Since this species seems to be using only whte cedar in Florida and the tree occurs in few places there, S1 or S2 would probably apply. In New Jersey the species is much more widespread since white cedar is common there. The fact that this moth is very difficult to collect by ordinary means makes the paucity of actual records difficult to interpret. It is clear though the species is not restricted to high quality natural habitats. This moth is not imperiled and perhaps is secure, but based on actual records, this species could really be globally uncommon to rare, and it may really be very rare outside of New Jersey.
Nation: United States
National Status: NNR
Nation: Canada
National Status: NNR

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 Connecticut (SH), Florida (SNR), Maryland (SNR), New Jersey (S2), North Carolina (S1S3), South Carolina (S1S3), Virginia (S1S3)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: NE - Not evaluated

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Mainly coastal plain and piedmont. Southern Connecticut (formerly or perhaps mislabelled), southern New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, both Carolinas, Georgia, the Florida panhandle to Mississippi. Will be found more widely in the southeastern piedmont and coastal plain.

Number of Occurrences: 21 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Probably widely overlooked, abundant potential habitat, apparently nearly all unoccupied at lest northward but might be much more widespread than now realized in New Jersey and the Carolinas especially.

Population Size: 10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Apparently not very common for a moth but widespread.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Some to many (13-125)

Overall Threat Impact: High
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Mainly loss of habitat. White cedar is a very valued wood. Red cedar stands often destroyed for coastal developments, but this moth presumably can survive in residential areas where the host cedars remain unless these are subject to neav biocide use (against mosquitos) in late spring-early summer. Surprisingly tolerant of BTK so gypsy moth spraying probably not a big threat when this is used.

Short-term Trend: Unknown
Short-term Trend Comments: A weak case could be made for decline in New Jersey based on fewer modern collections despite increased effort.

Long-term Trend: Unknown

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Need persistent efforts from late fall to early spring in large red or white cedar stands. It would be especially useful to find out how widespread this really is in red cedar stands and what the minimum habitat needs in such places are.

Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) Mainly coastal plain and piedmont. Southern Connecticut (formerly or perhaps mislabelled), southern New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, both Carolinas, Georgia, the Florida panhandle to Mississippi. Will be found more widely in the southeastern piedmont and coastal plain.

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 CT, FL, MD, NC, NJ, SC, VA

Range Map
No map available.

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
NJ Atlantic (34001), Burlington (34005)*, Cumberland (34011), Gloucester (34015), Ocean (34029)*, Salem (34033)
VA Prince William (51153)*
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
02 Cohansey-Maurice (02040206)+, Mullica-Toms (02040301)+*, Great Egg Harbor (02040302)+, Lower Potomac (02070011)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
General Description: About 40 mm wingspan. Both the larva (Maier et al. 2004) and adult Webster and Thomas (1999) are unmistakable within the range based on these images, but in New Jersey L. fagina is of similar size and shape but the forewings are smooth slate gray with a whitish costa. Franclemont (1969 in Journal of the Lepidopterists Society) describes and illustrates a similar species from California. Note the fragmented normal pattern, the size, shape and general color whcih is brownish gray and streaked like cedar bark. There are several similar species elsewhere in North America and Europe, including an unnamed species with very different genitalia in Missouri, and dissection is recommended if specimens of this sort turn up in the Mississippi Valley or farther west. The related Lithophane thujae Webster and Thomas, which is known from Canada and northern Michigan, does not occur near the range of L. lemmeri and barely enters the USA. Webster and Thomas (1999) illustrate the male and female genitalia of L. lemmeri and L. thujae. It should generally be easy to find an image of the adult on line. As of March 2007 the Georgia lepidoptera site had a good one as di the Moth Photographers Group site.

Diagnostic Characteristics: See above, within its range both adult and larva are unique. This is the only large non-Geometrid caterpillar that is obviously adapted for camouflage among cedar foliage.
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Adults do wander at least up to a few km but are usually collected within 100 meters of cedar stands
Palustrine Habitat(s): FORESTED WETLAND, Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Old field, Woodland - Conifer
Habitat Comments: Swamps with Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) dominant or at least common anw widely dsitributed in New Jersey and Florida. Otherwise the habitat is unclear because most collections are single moths in ordinary places in regions where red cedar (Juniperus virginiana or J. silicicola) grows. Presumably white cedar is used between New Jersey and Florida but to date there have been no collections of this moth or its larvae in cedar swamps, or even in counties where this tree is native, elsewhere.
Food Comments: Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) was confirmed as natural foodplant in Florida by H.D. Baggett in 1990 (reared moth determined by Schweitzer) and apparently larvae have been found since then (J.Slotten). C. Maier and D. Wagner have collected larvae on that tree in New Jersey as well, and all captures of the moth there are within a kilometer or so of this common tree and most in cedar swamps. Schweitzer reared larvae from a white cedar associated population and they did extremely well on red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) also and all known collections of this moth outside of New Jersey and Florida are in counties where Atlantic White Cedar does not occur. Such populations are obviously using Juniperus. Collections of adults in these states are typically singletons in ordinary places, usually at lights. Larvae feed on the new foliage initially but as they mature they also eat the older foliage.
Adult Phenology: Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: Adults hibernate, and in New Jersey occur from November into April, rarely even May, with mating mostly in March. Larvae are slow growing and occur from late April to late June, with a few into July. The adult season starts later, is shorter, and the larvae occur earlier, southward. Fully fed prepupal larvae aestivate in a cocoon in soil, litter, or on tree trunks, from about end of June though September in New Jersey longer southward, before pupating in autumn.
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary
Stewardship Overview:
Logging and deer would seem to be the main concerns in white cedar swamps, although with good management some harvest is consistent with persistence if deer can be kept at low levels and cedar regenerates well. Development and succession are more likely threats to Red Cedar associated populations. The only obvious need seems to be occurrence of substantial (generally > 40 hectare) cedar stands in reasonable proximity to each other or simply numerous scattered patches of cedars over a large area. In southern New Jersey there is some white cedar along almost every stream, which is probably why the moth is primarily known from there. Habitats there are second to fourth growth but usually are composed mostly of relatively mature trees. In the piedmont areas, patches of Red Cedars are smaller. Fire can be important in the long-term dynamics of white cedar swamps but in the short-term fire kills most of the trees. Prescribed burning is usually not carried out in cedar swamps. The early instars are remarkably tolerant of Btk even in laboratory assays with most treated second instars producing normal adults (Peacock et al. 1998) after some initial slowing of growth. So a healthy population would obviously survive a field application of Btk and drift or even direct application would not be a concern with this species--but would be for associated rarities like Hessel's Hairstreak in white cedar swamps. However all individuals would be early or mid-instar larvae, so mortality in chemical applications would probably be similar to that for Gypsy Moth larvae and lethal residue from persistent chemicals like Dimilin could possibly last for more than one season on the cedar hosts.

It is well known (since about 1960) in New Jersey that large deer populations can greatly impede or outright prevent white cedar regeneration after wildfire or harvest. The ecology of Atlantic white cedar is quite well known to most foresters who manage it. The basic need of L. lemmeri and other specialists is continuous presence of a substantial number of white cedars, and they may need to be about ten meters tall. None of these specialists need virgin stands. Too little is known about the ecology and needs of red cedar associated populations to suggest management concerns beyond maintaining the trees themselves.

Population/Occurrence Delineation
Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: A cedar stand where this species occur, or recently has occurred, and where there is potential for persistence or regular recurrence. Minimally a location where an adult or caterpillar has been collected or photographed. With caterpillars a photograph may be easier to verify than an alcohol-preserved specimen. Either must be verified by an expert with this genus. Occurrences ranked higher than D should support a persistent viable population.
Mapping Guidance: EO boundaries should be quite apparent from the vegetation and in places like New Jersey where there are good vegetation maps showing cedar swamps, use these as a basis for mapping. Allow up to 100 meters of upland buffer and obviously in New Jersey where all palustrine forest types along streams usually contain some cedar such cover types between the cedar swamps are part of the EO (and moths are often collected in them).
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 3 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Alternate Separation Procedure: Multiple patches of white cedar in the same swamp or along the same river or patches of red cedar on the same ridge or other comparable situations should be treated as single metapopulation occurrences. In New Jersey Pinelands at least white cedar is rarely absent in palustrine forests and where there are concentrations nearby both adults and larvae are found in such mixed stands. Therefore use the suitable habitat distances in such places unless cedars are virtually absent over twice the unsuitable habitat distance. Probably this would be appropriate in upland habitats but these may be more discrete.
Separation Justification: This is a very long lived (November to mid spring) moth and a strong flier. Captures have been made several kilometers out of any habitat in New Jersey and often in marginal situations. Chris Maier found larvae in a small isolated patch of roadside cedars also several kilometers from any potential viable occurrence. Still it is taken in any numbers only in or within perhaps 100 meters of substantial cedar stands. While it is a very difficult species to sample in many cases, Schweitzer's study of an Atlantic County, New Jersey population verified that that occurrence extended throughout a several hundred hectare swamp complex covering two watersheds, with gaps (but <1 km). Linear distance is more than 5 kilometers for this occurrence and also more than two for another New Jersey occurrence, in both cases along stream corridors. Also as far as Schweitzer knows persistent Lithophane occurrences are always several hundred to several tens of thousands of hectares or even much larger. This species can obviously be expected, like most Lepidoptera, to occupy most or all contiguous habitat and obviously two collections within 10 kilometers are nearly certain to be the same metapopulation if they are separated by largely suitable or marginal habitats where there are at least a few cedars. Both distances are arbitrary. As to the unsuitable habitat distance it is suspected, but not known, that adults do not often move widely over really unsuitable habitats without cedars and so it seems reasonably likely that a fairly short distance could functionally separate populations even if it does not eliminate all gene flow. In New Jersey this distance would generally apply mostly in upland areas.
Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 2 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: This figure probably will not often work in uplands where the IE will generally simply be the contiguous or closely proximate red cedar stand. However in extensive lowland swamp forest such as along New Jersey Pinelands rivers and streams the IE is all suitable is all contiguous white cedar and mixed swamp forest containing some cedar in the swamp complex up to 2 km, and at least one EO is known to be substantially larger and others probably are.
Date: 25Sep2001
Author: Schweitzer, Dale F.
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 06May2008
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Schweitzer, D.F.
Management Information Edition Date: 20Mar2007
Management Information Edition Author: Schweitzer, D.F.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 06May2008
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).

  • Forbes, W. T. M. 1954. Lepidoptera of New York and Neighboring States, Noctuidae, Part III. Memoir 329. Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station. Ithaca, NY.

  • Hodges, R.W. et al., eds. 1983. Check List of the Lepidoptera of America North of Mexico. E.W. Classey Limited and The Wedge Entomological Research Foundation, London. 284 pp.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Schweitzer, D.F. 1989. A review of Category 2 Insecta in USFWS regions 3, 4, 5. Prepared for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

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