Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFHepialidae Members: 7 NC Records

Gazoryctra sciophanes (Ferguson, 1979) - No Common Name


Taxonomy
Family: Hepialidae Subfamily: [Hepialinae] Tribe: [Hepialini] P3 Number: 110002.00 MONA Number: 23.10                                                                                  
Comments: A member of the Ghost Moth, or Swift family, a primitive group of over 500 species that is found worldwide. In North America, the family is made up of at least 20 species in four genera, a vast majority of them having northern or western affinities. G. sciophanes is one of at least 10 species in the genus and the only one found in N.C. The taxonomy of the group remains in flux.
Species Status: Recent mDNA barcoding of Gazoryctra specimens taken from different mountain tops in the state suggests that several cryptic species may be involved (J. Bolling Sullivan, pers. comm.).
Identification
Field Guide Descriptions: Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Ferguson (1979)                                                                                  
Adult Markings: Rounded forewing variably sooty black to dark brown with diffuse gray, dark brown, or black mottling and streaking. It typically shows an elongated white bar or patch with irregular, jagged edges running obliquely across the lower half of the median area, as well as several small, elongated white spots at the base. It may also show white spotting in the subterminal area and along the costa, but these markings are subject to individual variation. Ferguson (1979) states that in half of the male specimens he collected, the large white forewing patch was reduced or obscured. Females appear to be lighter overall, perhaps with less distinct patterning (Ferguson, 1979; Grehan, 1998). Very worn individuals, or those with greatly reduced or obscured white maculations, may be hard to recognize or could be mistaken for other species, potentially including Korscheltellus gracilis, though that species is smaller than Gazoryctra (Ferguson, 1979).
Forewing Length: 15-18 mm, males; 20 mm, female (allotype) (Ferguson, 1979)
Adult Structural Features: As with other Hepialids, the antennae are greatly reduced. Male genitalia appear to be distinctive (see Ferguson, 1979 for details and illustration).
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: Larvae and other early stages do not appear to have been described
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Appears to be restricted to the High 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: Our records all come from July
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: All of our records come from Spruce-Fir Forests at elevations above 4,000 feet elevation.
Larval Host Plants: Because a majority of specimens have been taken in the spruce/fir zone, it has long been thought that the larvae likely feed on the roots of Fraser fir or other conifer species, or other plants associated with spruce/fir forest (Grehan, 1998). However, that sciophanes has also been collected on several high peaks and balds in NC where spruce/fir is not found casts doubt upon this assumption. It is currently thought that they are subterranean borers that probably feed on the roots of grasses (J. Bolling Sullivan, pers. comm.).
Observation Methods: Like other members of the family, this species appears to fly for just a short period right around dusk, and during a relatively short window in early to mid-July. It is at least somewhat attracted to lights.
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status: SR
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: GU S1?
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it in state parks and on other public lands.
Comments: G. sciophanes is a southern Appalachian endemic described by Ferguson (1979) from a series collected in Jackson County. Additional series were collected by Grehan (1998) in Yancey and Mitchell counties. While it also occurs in Virginia and West Virginia (Grehan, 1998), it may be most easily be found in North Carolina, where it is likely uncommon. As a species restricted to the high mountains, it may be highly vulnerable to the effects of global climate change.

 Photo Gallery for Gazoryctra sciophanes - No common name

Photos: 1

Recorded by: Ed Corey on 2016-06-29
Yancey Co.
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