Pyrrhia aurantiago - (Guenée, 1852)
Aureolaria Seed Borer
Other English Common Names: False-foxglove Sun Moth, Orange Sallow Moth
Synonym(s): Rhodoecia aurantiago (Guenée, 1852)
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
French Common Names: Héliotin orangé
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.112746
Element Code: IILEYMK010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Invertebrates - Insects - Butterflies and Moths - Other Moths
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Mandibulata Insecta Lepidoptera Noctuidae Pyrrhia
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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: Rhodoecia aurantiago
Taxonomic Comments: Generic combination from Pogue (2008).
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G3G4
Global Status Last Reviewed: 02Feb2009
Global Status Last Changed: 02Feb2009
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: With such a large range, one would think this moth must be common some place, but it is apparently uncommon to rare from Connecticut through the Ohio Valley region (Rings et al., 1992; Covell, 1999), in the mountains south to north Georgia (James Adams), and in the coastal plain of New Jersey and North Carolina (J.B. Sullivan, S. Hall), as well as in Texas (E. Knudson) and Louisiana (V. Brou). There is only one known record from the entire Piedmont, in Nottoway County, Virginia, the only modern records for the state (Steve Roble, pers. com. to DFS, January 2009). Albu and Metzler (2004) do not report it from southern West Virginia, although Steve Johnson collected two in Boone County, in 2003. Ed Knudson (email to DFS January 10, 2009) reports only two recent specimens from Texas (Tyler and Travis Counties). Nine specimens have been collected in the last two decades in five eastern North Carolina counties. Only one was found during recent intensive inventory in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (James Adams, email to DFS, January 2009). R. aurantiago is apparently less rare in Massachusetts, where it is rare enough to be considered a threatened species, but to some extent this reflects the persistent well-targeted efforts of the state's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. Also, one or two of the known foodplants are reported from every mainland county in or contiguous to Massachusetts (USDA Plants Profiles). The species is historic, but not presumed extirpated, in Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, mainland New York, and Maryland. The species could turn up more widely in the Carolina Sand Hills, especially if Aureolaria pectinata is a foodplant. If A. laevigata is also a foodplant, then R. aurantiago could be widespread in the mountains from Pennsylvania to the Smokies, but there is no evidence that it is. So there must be at least dozens of populations, maybe a few hundred. However, many colonies produce only a few hundred mature larvae annually (DFS, observations in NH, MA, CT, NJ), and habitats are now fragmented. Habitats have declined substantially, and known threats (deer, lack of fires) are fairly widespread. A major unknown is the status of the species from western Illinois through Missouri into Arkansas, where the foodplants are, or were, most continuously distributed. R. aurantiago is declining, historic in some parts of its range, but not imminently imperiled globally. It seems to be quite rare in most of its range, least so at the northeast and southeast extremes. However, the species could prove to be more common on the western edge of the range.

Nation: United States
National Status: NNR
Nation: Canada
National Status: N1 (19Jan2017)

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 Arkansas (SNR), Connecticut (S2), Indiana (S1S2), Maine (SH), Maryland (SNR), Massachusetts (S3), Michigan (SNR), New Hampshire (SU), New Jersey (SU), New York (SU), North Carolina (S1S3), Pennsylvania (SH), Virginia (S1S3), Wisconsin (SNR)
Canada Ontario (S1)

Other Statuses

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Endangered (01Apr2018)
Comments on COSEWIC: Reason for designation: This rare moth is extant at three locations in Canada, all within the oak-dominated savannas and open woodlands of southern Ontario. It is estimated that 99% of this habitat type has been lost in Ontario. The larvae depend on Smooth Yellow False Foxglove and Fern-leaved Yellow False Foxglove, both of which are species at risk in Canada. Canadian subpopulations of this moth are mostly in protected areas where the primary threats are over-browsing of the larval host plants by native White-tailed Deer and the effects of competition from invasive plants on the host plants.

Status history: Designated Endangered in April 2018.

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Spottily distributed from southern Maine (historic) and the hills around Boston, Massachusetts, west across southern Ontario to southwestern Wisconsin, and Missouri, south into Florida and Texas.

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

Number of Occurrences: 21 - 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: This species occurs in scattered colonies in about 20 states, in most cases with zero to four recent records. While unknown populations obviously exist in some state, only Massachusetts (with about 20) is known to have more than 10 extant populations, and Florida is the only other state where the species is still known to occur somewhat frequently (J.Slotten), both of which are regions where the with county level distribution of the foodplants is unusually contiguous. Information is lacking for Missouri and Arkansas which could be a major stronghold considering that the foodplant genus is particularly widespread there.

Population Size: Unknown
Population Size Comments: Most colonies seem to produce under 100 mature larvae most years, but there are no real data unless possibly in Massachusetts.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Unknown
Viability/Integrity Comments: Probably less than half of recent occurrences.

Overall Threat Impact: High
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Threats include fire suppression in much of the range, deer in the Northeast, Texas (E. Knudson), and Louisiana (V. Brou), and rapid development of upland habitats in Florida. Steve Hall notes that the recent North Carolina records are all from well-hunted areas, as were those in the 1980s and 1990s in New Jersey. This species is especially susceptible to browse damage because young larvae are likely to be consumed directly and older larvae will starve if deer eat all of the flowers or young seed pods. An aggravating factor is that Aureolaria pedicularia (possibly the most commonly used foodplant) and Dasistoma macrophylla are annuals, so that deer can probably eradicate them rather rapidly. A least the former is strongly associated with recent disturbances, such as fires, and declines within a few years. If pupae always eclose the first summer, which seems to be the case, then populations inhabiting isolated habitats would be vulnerable to even short-term failure in their food supply unless a perennial foodplant like Aureolaria flava is also present and some stems escape herbivory long enough to produce seed pods. Repeated browsing by deer can kill A. flava (DFS).

Short-term Trend: Decline of >50%

Long-term Trend: Decline of <50% to Relatively Stable

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Spottily distributed from southern Maine (historic) and the hills around Boston, Massachusetts, west across southern Ontario to southwestern Wisconsin, and Missouri, south into Florida and Texas.

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: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AR, CT, IN, MA, MD, ME, MI, NC, NH, NJ, NY, PA, VA, WI
Canada ON

Range Map
No map available.

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CT New Haven (09009)*, Tolland (09013)
IN Lake (18089)
MA Berkshire (25003), Franklin (25011), Hampden (25013), Hampshire (25015), Middlesex (25017), Suffolk (25025)*, Worcester (25027)
NC New Hanover (37129)
NH Hillsborough (33011), Rockingham (33015)
NY Livingston (36051), Suffolk (36103)
VA Nottoway (51135)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Nashua (01070004)+, Merrimack (01070006)+, Middle Connecticut (01080201)+, Miller (01080202)+, Deerfield (01080203)+, Chicopee (01080204)+, Westfield (01080206)+, Charles (01090001)+, Blackstone (01090003)+, Quinebaug (01100001)+, Shetucket (01100002)+, Quinnipiac (01100004)+*
02 Southern Long Island (02030202)+
03 Nottoway (03010201)+, Lower Cape Fear (03030005)+
04 Lower Genesee (04130003)+
07 Chicago (07120003)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Hardwood, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Habitat Comments: Habitats are dry sandy or rocky oak dominated savannas, or open woods with and abundance of the foodplants, especially places that burn frequently.
Food Comments: Larvae eat developing seeds of false foxgloves (Aureolaria spp.), including A. pedicularia widely, along with A. grandiflora in Illinois (Crumb, 1956, crediting A.K. Wyatt) and A. flava in New England (DFS). A report of Dasistoma (=Afzelia) macrophylla repeated by Forbes (1954) and Kimball (1965) goes back to at least Farquhar (1934), but is not repeated by Crumb (1956) or Hardwick (1996), and should be verified. All of these are tall yellow-flowered woodland herbs in the snapdragon family (Scrophulariaceae), and Aureolaria are hemiparasites on oak roots. Larvae do not occur on A. virginica even where it is common in the habitat.
Phenology Comments: Adults occur northward from late July into September, with most larvae mature by mid October but stragglers into November. The phenology is shifted later southward, with adults mostly in September in Texas and North Carolina, and from sometime in September through October in Florida.
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary
Biological Research Needs: It would be useful to determine exactly which species of Aureolaria are foodplants, and to verify old reports of Dasistoma. In some habitats research into the ecology of the foodplants would be desirable.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Group Name: Schinia and other flower-feeding Noctuidae

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: A patch or proximate patches of the foodplant where the species occurs or has occurred where there is potential for persistence or regular recurrence. Minimally a collection or photograph of an adult or verifiable larvae in association with the foodplant. If the foodplant is not known for the species an occurrence may be based on an adult associated with plausible habitat, that is with some sort of flowery situation such as a grassland, roadside, outcrop etc. Verification standards vary with taxa, but for many SCHNIA and some others photographs of adults are acceptable although specimens are always preferable. In most cases high quality occurrences will be metapopulations with several large patches of the foodplant with some scattered individuals between the main patches, usually within in a large prairie, savanna, woodland etc.
Mapping Guidance: When the foodplant occurs in multiple patches within a large remnant prairie, savanna, woodland, right of way etc. consider all occupied patches as a single metapopulation occurrence subject to the 10 kilometer distance.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 2 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Most of these species are strong fliers and good colonizers. For example SCHINIA NUBILA colonized and became established in much of southern New Jersey and parts of Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania during the early and mid 1990s. Many species are very adept at colonizing successional habitats or coping with plants that do not flower every year. They also often reach high densities and can colonize small patches of plants if there are other source patches in the area. Thus a population should occupy essentially all available habitat where the species is present at all and populations will usually occur widely in good habitats although areas of concentration will shift if the plants bloom irregularly. While strays do occur adults concentrate very near their larval foodplant so relatively short separation distances across unsuitable habitat can be used to define occurrences even though some gene flow may occur. While some seemingly suitable habitat may be unoccupied for some of the rarer species, in general collections less than 10 kilometers apart over suitable habitat with the foodplant are very unlikely to represent separate occurrences.
Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 1 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: In general habitats are only a few hectares to hundreds of hectares and so IE is simply all available habitat up to 400 hectares. However some arbitrary cap is needed where habitat is extensive or foodplant patches are widely distributed within a large community.
Date: 30Oct2001
Author: Schweitzer, Dale F.
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 02Feb2009
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Schweitzer, D.F.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 02Feb2009
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).

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  • Forbes, William T. M. 1954. Lepidoptera of New York and neighboring states part III. Cornell University Experiment Station Memoir 329.

  • 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.

  • Natural Resources Commission. 2014. Roster of Indiana Animals, Insects, and Plants That Are Extirpated, Endangered, Threatened or Rare. Information Bulletin #2 (Sixth Amendment. 20pp.

  • NatureServe. 2010. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available (Data last updated August 2010)

  • North American Moth Photographers Group at the Mississippi Entomological Museum. No date. Mississippi State University, Mississippi.

  • Pogue, M. G. 2008. Rhodoecia Hampson, 1908, a new synonym of Pyrrhia Hübner, 1821 [1816] (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae: Heliothinae). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 110:810.

  • Pohl, G.R.  J-F. Landry, B.C. Schmidt, J.D. Lafontaine, J.T. Troubridge, A.D. Macaulay, E.van Nieukerken, J.R. deWaard, J.J. Dombroskie, J. Klymko, V. Nazari and K. Stead. 2018. Annotated checklist of the moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera) of Canada and Alaska. Pensoft Publishers. 580 pp.

  • 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., 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 Technology Transter Bulletin, FHTET-2009-02.

  • Schweitzer, Dale F. 1998. Rare, potentially rare, and historic macrolepidoptera for Long Island, New York: A suggested inventory list.

  • Wagner, D. L., D. F. Schweitzer, J. B. Sullivan, and R. C. Reardon. 2008. Owlet Caterpillars of Eastern North America (Lepidoptera: Noctudiae)

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