Moths of North Carolina
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Sole representative of Incurvariidae in NC
8 NC Records

Paraclemensia acerifoliella (Fitch, 1854) - Maple Leafcutter Moth

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Superfamily: Incurvarioidea Family: IncurvariidaeSubfamily: [Incurvariinae]Tribe: [Incurvariini]P3 Number: 210069.00 MONA Number: 181.00
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984)Online Photographs: MPG; BugGuide; BAMONATechnical Description, Adults: Schmidt Nielsen (1982)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Drooz (1985).                                                                                 
Adult Markings: This is a readily identifiable species that has a black antenna and steel blue forewings that are fringed with black. The thorax is also steel blue and contrasts with the bright orangish yellow scales on the head. The hindwings are smoky brown, translucent, and bordered with a pale brown fringe of long scales (Drooz, 1985). The legs are whitish, and the abdomen is dark brown.
Wingspan: 8.5-13 mm (Drooz, 1985).
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: The following is largely based on Drooz (1985) from observations made in Canada. The adults first appear seasonally at about the time that sugar maples or other host plants are undergoing leaf expansion. Females deposit their eggs singly on the undersides of the leaves and the hatchlings bore into the leaves and mine for about two weeks. After completing the mining stage, each larva cuts two round to oval disks out of the leaf. These are then bound together with silk to produce a movable case where the larva resides while feeding. When feeding, the larva attaches the case to the leaf and reaches out as far as possible in a circular fashion to skeletonize the leaf surface. The uneaten center of the circle remains green, but often drops out due to the dead tissue surrounding it. This creates a hole as large as 12 mm in diameter. The larva may then move to a new feeding area and repeat the process. As it grows, progressively larger pieces of leaves are cut out and attached to the case, with the largest piece attached to the exposed side. When fully grown, the larva drops to the ground with its case and pupates on the soil surface. Individuals overwinter as pupae, and the adults emerge with the subsequent spring leaf-out. Drooz (1985) noted that this species can become a pest in sugar maple stands in Canada where significant defoliation of trees occurs during years when populations reach high densities.
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Paraclemensia acerifoliella is broadly distributed across southern Canada and New England. From there, it ranges as far west as Illinois, Wisconsin, and Missouri, and as far south as North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi and eastern Texas. Disjunct populations occur in northern Florida and central Texas. This species appears to be largely absent from much of the southeastern Coastal Plain. As of 2019, we have records from the Piedmont and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
County Map: Clicking on a county returns the records for the species in that county.
Flight Dates:
 High Mountains (HM) ≥ 4,000 ft.
 Low Mountains (LM) < 4,000 ft.
 Piedmont (Pd)
 Coastal Plain (CP)

Click on graph to enlarge
Flight Comments: The adults are active for a couple of months during and shortly after the spring leaf-out. As of 2019, our records for adults are all from the first two weeks of May.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Local populations are generally found in rich hardwood forests, particularly where Sugar Maple is present at mid- to higher elevations in the mountains. The habitats used in the Piedmont were not reported.
Larval Host Plants: Although P. acerifoliella feeds on a variety of hardwood species, Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) and Black Maple (A. nigrum) appear to be the primary hosts. Larvae can reach high densities in Canada and the Northeast during population eruptions. The crowded larvae sometimes spillover to nearly woody species that are not considered to be the primary hosts based on the absence of eggs or early mines on these species (Ross, 1962; Pohl et al., 2015; Eiseman, 2019). Simmons et al. (1977) reported that P. acerifoliella is a periodic defoliator of Sugar Maple (A. saccharum), Red Maple (A. rubrum), American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis), American Elm (UImus americana) and American Hop-hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) in Canada. The larvae have also been found feeding occasionally on an assortment of other species. Examples include American Mountain-ash (Sorbus americana), Paper Birch (B. papyrifera), Gray Birch (B. populifolia), Post Oak (Quercus stellata) and Huckleberries (Vaccinium). We have much to learn about host use in North Carolina. As of 2019, the only documented host is Sugar Maple.
Observation Methods: The adults are attracted to UV and mercury vapor lights, and the distinctive leaf cases and oval feeding patterns are easy to spot on maple leaves.
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: GNR SU
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: We currently do not have sufficient data on the distribution and abundance of this species within the state to assess its conservation status.

 Photo Gallery for Paraclemensia acerifoliella - Maple Leafcutter Moth

Photos: 7

Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2020-05-16
Madison Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2020-05-16
Madison Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2020-05-16
Madison Co.
Recorded by: on 2019-09-30
Haywood Co.
Recorded by: on 2019-09-30
Haywood Co.
Recorded by: Ken Kneidel on 2019-05-04
Yancey Co.
Recorded by: J. Merrill Lynch on 2015-05-10
Watauga Co.