The barrens itame is likely more widespread than currently known on Long Island where habitat loss is a threat.
Only three occurrences have been documented in New York, but the species is expected to occur at additional locations.
Some habitat loss is likely to have occurred on Long Island. The population in the Albany Pine Bush was reconfirmed in 2016 with the discovery of moth a number of locations throughout the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.
The long-term trend indicates a moderate (25% to 50%) decline in the population.
Loss of habitat to development is a threat on Long Island where this species is undoubtedly more widespread than is now known. Fire suppression, to the extent where scrub oak habitats become forest or even heavily shaded, is a threat. However, in New Jersey, populations can persist on scrub oaks under a moderate pine canopy. Complete burns are also a threat since most eggs would be killed and any larvae that did appear in the spring would probably be out too early to feed on sprouts. Spongy moth (Lymantria dispar) caterpillar spraying could be a threat, but sensitivity to Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis - a bacterial biological control used on spongy moth caterpillars) by the Barrens Itame is unknown. Defoliation could also be a threat (more likely on ridgetops than in sandy places), depending on whether or not larvae have already pupated.
The best management strategy for this species is the management of the natural community, or habitat, where this species occurs. Maintaining pine barrens with their full suite of plant and animal species requires frequent (every few decades) disturbance to maintain open-canopy, shrub-dominated communities and to prevent succession to a closed-canopy hardwood forest (Jordan et al. 2003). Researchers have determined that "an active fire management program utilizing prescribed fire with appropriate mechanical treatments" is the preferred method (Jordan et al. 2003). Researchers have also determined that the size, type, intensity, and timing of fires (pyrodiversity) needs to be evaluated for each site to maximize benefits to the natural community and the species it supports (Jordan et al. 2003). The entire occupied habitat for a population should not be burned in a single year. For example, in places where prescribed burning is used, refugia (unburned areas) are needed for many species to ensure that any life stage can survive a fire.
Populations usually occur on sand in pitch pine-scrub oak barrens, including dwarf pine plains. They can also occur on ridgetops. In other states, the species has shown up occasionally in small habitats of only a few acres, but most habitats where it has been found recently are at least 1,000 acres.
The known range includes the Albany Pine Bush, Long Island, and Orange County. This species could turn up in other southeastern New York counties with substantial scrub oak.
The Barrens Itame occurs in very few inland pine barrens in Maine, New Hampshire, western Massachusetts, New York, and the Poconos region of Pennsylvania. It is more widespread in the Cape Cod and Islands region of Massachusetts and probably on Long Island, New York. The species is fairly ubiquitous in the pine barrens portion of Ocean, Burlington, and northern Atlantic Counties of New Jersey, with an isolated population in Salem County, New Jersey. A known population at Goshen, Virginia may indicate that the species has a wider Appalachian range.
The identification needs to be done by an expert or by a person with a good reference series. The forewing is rather plain brown, especially on the males, and can also be grayish. The normal markings are weak. The hindwing is powdery with some small dark spots and has a general yellowish to slightly orangish color. The underside is colored much like the hindwing above. See also Forbes' (1948) description under the name Itame inceptaria.
Barrens itame is approximately 25mm. The forewing is plain brown, but can be grayish in males. Both sexes have a well-defined, but not enlarged, postmedian line. The hindwing is slightly yellowish to orangish with small dark spots. The underside is similar to the forewing. Identification of specimens or photos of good spread specimens is not difficult, especially if both upper and under sides are shown in the photos. Identification should not be attempted from field photos.
The underside and hindwing color is distinctive (see General Description). The species is described by Forbes (1948) as Itame inceptaria.
The adult is the best life stage for identification.
Almost all collections are made at blacklights or mercury vapor collecting lights and this species was very rarely collected before blacklights came into use. Unlike many species of Itame, this one does not flush readily or fly in the daytime.
The larvae feed on new growth of scrub oak.
The eggs of moths in this genus overwinter. The exact dates the larvae are present is not well known, but they are known to be present in May through mid-June. The adults are found mostly around the middle of July in New York.
The time of year you would expect to find Barrens Itame reproducing, larvae present and active, eggs present outside adult, and pupae or prepupae present in New York.
Speranza exonerata Ferguson, 2008
Allen, T.J., J.P. Brock, and J. Glassberg. 2005. Caterpillars in the field and garden. Oxford University Press, New York. 232 pp.
Blanchard, Orland J. 1996. Field survey to Dwarf Pine Barrens of July 11, 1996.
Brock, J. P., and K. Kaufman. 2003. Butterflies of North America. Kaufman Focus Field Guides, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY 284 pp.
Forbes, W.T.M. 1948. Lepidoptera of New York and Neighboring States. Part II: Geometridae, Sphingidae, Notodontidae, Lymantriidae. Memoir 274. Cornell U. Agric. Experiment Station. 263 pp.
Forbes, William T. M. 1948. Lepidoptera of New York and neighboring states part II. Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station Memoir 274.
McCabe, Timothy L. 1990. Report to the Natural Heritage Program: Results of the 1990 field survey for lepidoptera (especially noctuidae). New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 38 pp. plus supplements.
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.
Schneider, Kathryn J., Carol Reschke and Steve M. Young. 1991. Inventory of the rare plants, animals and ecological communities of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. A report to the Albany Pine Bush Commission. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 67 pp. plus maps.
Schweitzer, Dale F. Terrestrial Invertebrate Zoologist (retired), NatureServe. Port Norris, NJ.
Information for this guide was last updated on: December 20, 2007
Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. Online Conservation Guide for Speranza exonerata. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/barrens-itame/. Accessed February 5, 2023.