A Zale Moth

Zale largera (Smith, 1908)

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Insecta (Insects)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Apparently Secure globally - Uncommon in the world but not rare; usually widespread, but may be rare in some parts of its range; possibly some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors.


Did you know?

Zale largera caterpillars feed exclusively on jack pine which has a very limited range within the state. There is only one known location of this species in New York.

State Ranking Justification

Zale largera is known from only one location in the state in Clinton County. Although intensive inventory efforts to document new locations are lacking, its range is likely very limited in New York considering there is only one known occurrences and because the food plant, jack pine, also has a limited distribution within the state.

Short-term Trends

More sampling is needed to determine the short-term trends which are currently unknown. A total of two adult moths were captured at black-lights on successive nights in May of 1995 and none have been recorded since at the single known location.

Long-term Trends

The long-term trends are unknown. The one known statewide location was first documented in 1995.

Conservation and Management


The loss of jack pine dominance at occupied sites due to wildfire suppression, logging, or mineral excavation are potential threats. While the loss of jack pines due to fire suppression is a potential threat, a large fire could also destory the one known occurrence in the state. This species will not persist on other pine species (McCabe 2004). The spraying of biological control agents or pesticides for spongy moths is another potential threat. While spongy moths inhabit deciduous forest and this species inhabits jack pine barrens the known occurrence is adjacent to mixed and deciduous forest. It is unknown if the use of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis - a bacterial biological control agent designed to kill spongy moth caterpillars) would effect Zale largera caterpillars. McCabe (2004) documented the defoliation of jack pines brought to Albany, NY to raise Zale duplicata larvae by pine sawflies, and noted the possibility that this fly may limit jack pine occurrence in the state to locations on sandstone or flat rock areas where soil is too sparse for the development of pine sawfly larvae.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Since Zale largera depends on jack pine, a fire adapted species, appropriate fire management may be needed to maintain the jack pine component of the one known statewide occurrence. Because jack pine cones are located and held at the top of the tree, high intensity crown fires are necessary for the cones to open and germinate in large numbers. Some cones on each tree may not be encased in as thick a resin and may open without fire and some populations of jack pine may be more prone to this condition and may, therefore, not be as fire dependent. There is concern that the barrens where the only Zale largera occurrence is located is reaching maturity and may be replaced by other species if fire is excluded from the system (Hawver 1993). However, any prescibed burning program should take into account rare lepidoptera species which could be negatively affected by loss of eggs, pupae, larvae, or adults depending on the size and timing of the burned area. Any burning should leave refugia or large areas of unburned habitat and the entire occurrence should not be burned in the same year. More research is needed into the biology and life-cycles of several highly habitat-specific rare lepidoptera species that inhabit theses barrens before any intensive management strategy is determined (McCabe 2004).

Research Needs

Inventory efforts of jack pine barrens in the state are needed to determine if there are unknown locations where this species may exist. More sampling and monitoring in the Altona Flat Rock barrens is needed to determine the population size and trends there. Inventory is also needed in jack pine barrens in other northeastern states and Canada to determine the species global distribution. Research into the phenology (timing of life stages) of this species is needed.



The food plant for Zale largera is jack pine (Pinus banksiana). This species is known from one jack pine barrens in the state. At this particular site the canopy is composed of jack and pitch pine and there are numerous small perched boggy wetlands scattered throughout the barrens. There is much exposed sandstone bedrock and a layer of eracinous shrubs and sparse grasses.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Sandstone pavement barrens (guide)
    An open canopy woodland that occurs on very shallow soils over sandstone bedrock; this community is best developed where the bedrock is nearly level, thus forming a pavement. The best developed examples are found on Potsdam Sandstone in Clinton County. Large examples often include wetlands, such as perched bogs and inland poor fens.

Associated Species

  • Jack Pine Looper (Macaria signaria) (guide)


New York State Distribution

Zale largera is known from only one location in the state in Clinton County. Although intensive inventory efforts to document new locations are lacking, its range is probably very limited in New York considering there is only one known occurrence and because the food plant, jack pine, is uncommon in the state. Jack pine primarily occurs in sandstone barrens in Clinton County and is restricted to northern New York as a native tree (New York Flora Atlas 2009).

Global Distribution

Distribution data for the U.S. and Canadian provinces is known to be incomplete or has not been reviewed by NatureServe for this taxon.

Best Places to See

  • Altona Flat Rock Preserve

Identification Comments

General Description

The moth is powdery gray and dusted with some black (Forbes 1954). The caterpillars are highly variable in coloration and may appear with or without stripes (Wagner et al. 2008).

Identifying Characteristics

The moth is typically powdery gray and dusted with some black. It has a pale lunule on outer edge of reniform and a red-brown shade beyond reniform; median shade always dark, contrasting in light specimens, its inner edge runs far before the reniform (Forbes 1954). The description of the caterpillar was reported for Zale duplicata in Wagner et al. (2008) and Zale largera caterpillars may be similar. They are variable in color and patterning and may be green, red, maroon-gray, or brown and with or without striping. An identifying characteristic of these caterpillars is closely set protruberances over A8 and an integument that is somewhat smoother and more glossy than other species in the Zale genus (Wagner et al. 2008).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

Adult moths and possibly caterpillars may be identified by an expert familiar with the genus.


Zale largera moths are nocturnal and may be captured with black lights.


Zale largera caterpillars feed exclusively on jack pine (Pinus banksiana).

Best Time to See

The seasonal phenology described in the pheneology chart is for Zale duplicata a similar species as was reported in Forbes 1954. Zale largera was once thought to belong to Zale duplicata as the food-plant race Zale duplicata largera. The phenology for Zale duplicata largera was not described separately in Forbes 1954. The exact phenology for what is now known as a separate species, Zale largera, in New York is unknown. If similar to Zale duplicata, the moth is active in May and early June. The caterpillars are present in late June through August. There is also a pupa stage and the exact timing of emergence in New York is unknown.

  • Reproducing
  • Larvae present and active

The time of year you would expect to find A Zale Moth reproducing and larvae present and active in New York.


A Zale Moth
Zale largera (Smith, 1908)

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Arthropoda (Mandibulates)
      • Class Insecta (Insects)
        • Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies, Skippers, and Moths)
          • Family Erebidae

Additional Resources


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

Hawver, C. A. 1993. Stand structure in a jack pine chronosequence: role of fire in the preservation of biodiversity. M.A. Research Report. State University of New York at Plattsburgh. Plattsburgh, NY. 63 pp.

McCabe, Timothy L. 2004. Insect biodiversity of a jack pine barrens. A report prepared for the Biodiversity Research Institute, New York State Museum, Albany, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Stanton, Edward J. 1996. Report on 1995 lepidoptera inventory in Clinton County, New York jack pine pavement barrens. State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY.

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

Weldy, Troy W. and David Werier. 2009. New York Flora Atlas. [S.M. Landry and K.N. Campbell (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research. University of South Florida]. New York Flora Association, Albany, NY. Available on the web at (http://www.newyork.plantatlas.usf.edu/).


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: July 22, 2009

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Zale largera. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/a-zale-moth/. Accessed May 26, 2024.