Barrens Itame

Speranza exonerata Ferguson, 2008

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Insecta (Insects)
Geometridae (Loopers, Span Worms, Inch Worms, Geometer Moths)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled, Imperiled, or Vulnerable in New York - Conservation status is uncertain; could be especially vulnerable, very vulnerable, or vulnerable to disappearing from New York, due to rarity or other factors. More information is needed to assign either S1, S2 or S3.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Vulnerable globally, or Apparently Secure - At moderate risk of extinction, with relatively few populations or locations in the world, few individuals, and/or restricted range; or uncommon but not rare globally; may be rare in some parts of its range; possibly some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors. More information is needed to assign either G3 or G4.


Did you know?

The barrens itame is likely more widespread than currently known on Long Island where habitat loss is a threat.

State Ranking Justification

Only three occurrences have been documented in New York, but the species is expected to occur at additional locations.

Short-term Trends

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.

Long-term Trends

The long-term trend indicates a moderate (25% to 50%) decline in the population.

Conservation and Management


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.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

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.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Chestnut oak forest (guide)
    A hardwood forest that occurs on well-drained sites in glaciated portions of the Appalachians, and on the coastal plain. This forest is similar to the Allegheny oak forest; it is distinguished by fewer canopy dominants and a less diverse shrublayer and groundlayer flora. Dominant trees are typically chestnut oak and red oak.
  • Dwarf pine plains (guide)
    A woodland community dominated by dwarf individuals of pitch pine and scrub oak that occurs on nearly level outwash sand and gravel plains in eastern Long Island. The soils are infertile, coarse textured sands that are excessively well-drained.
  • Pitch pine-oak forest (guide)
    A mixed forest that typically occurs on well-drained, sandy soils of glacial outwash plains or moraines; it also occurs on thin, rocky soils of ridgetops. The dominant trees are pitch pine mixed with one or more of the following oaks: scarlet oak, white oak, red oak, or black oak.
  • Pitch pine-oak-heath rocky summit (guide)
    A community that occurs on warm, dry, rocky ridgetops and summits where the bedrock is non-calcareous (such as quartzite, sandstone, or schist), and the soils are more or less acidic. This community is broadly defined and includes examples that may lack pines and are dominated by scrub oak and/or heath shrubs apparently related to fire regime.
  • Pitch pine-oak-heath woodland (guide)
    A pine barrens community that occurs on well-drained, infertile, sandy soils. The structure of this community is intermediate between a shrub-savanna and a woodland. Pitch pine and white oak are the most abundant trees.

Associated Species

  • Jersey Jair Underwing (Catocala jair ssp. 2) (guide)


New York State Distribution

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.

Global Distribution

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.

Identification Comments

General Description

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.

Identifying Characteristics

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.

Characters Most Useful for Identification

The underside and hindwing color is distinctive (see General Description). The species is described by Forbes (1948) as Itame inceptaria.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

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.

Best Time to See

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.

  • Reproducing
  • Larvae present and active
  • Eggs present outside adult
  • Pupae or prepupae present

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.


Barrens Itame
Speranza exonerata Ferguson, 2008

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Arthropoda (Mandibulates)
      • Class Insecta (Insects)
        • Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies, Skippers, and Moths)
          • Family Geometridae (Loopers, Span Worms, Inch Worms, Geometer Moths)

Additional Resources


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. 2024. 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.


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: December 20, 2007

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Speranza exonerata. Available from: Accessed February 26, 2024.