Jack Pine Looper

Macaria signaria (Hübner, [1809])

Jack Pine Looper (Macaria marmorata)
Jim Vargo

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 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
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

Macaria signaria has a very limited range in New York. It is associated with jack pine and occurs at only two known locations in the state.

State Ranking Justification

There are only two known occurrences of Macaria signaria in the state. This species likely has a very limited distribution considering that it's food plant, jack pine (Pinus banksiana), is uncommon in New York.

Short-term Trends

The short-term trends are unknown. More sampling is needed to determine the short-term trends which are currently unknown. Eighteen moths were captured during a black-light survey of the Altona Flat Rock barrens in June of 1995 and seventeen were captured in another survey in July. Fourteen individuals were captured at the Gaway barrens in July of 1995 and the species was still present during surveys in June of 2003.

Long-term Trends

The long-term trends are unknown. The both known statewide locations were first documented in 1995.

Conservation and Management


The loss of jack pine dominance in occupied sites due to wildlife 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 destroy the only known occurrences in the state. 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 two known occurrences are 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 kill Macaria signaria 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 Macaria signaria depends on jack pine, which is a fire adapted species, appropriate fire management may be needed to maintain the jack pine component of the two known statewide occurrences. 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 two Macaria signaria occurrences are located are 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 of Macaria signaria and several other highly habitat-specific rare lepidoptera species that inhabit theses barrens before any intensive management strategy is determined (McCabe 2004).

Research Needs

Inventory of moths within jack pine sandstone barrens in the state are needed to determine if there are additional unknown locations. More sampling in the two known locations is necessary to determine the population sizes and trends. Inventory in other northeastern states and Canada is needed to determine the global distribution. Research is also needed to determine the phenology and life cycles in New York.



The caterpillars are dependent on their food plant, jack pine (Pinus banksiana), which has a very limited distribution in the state. Adults have been captured in two jack pine dominant sandstone pavement barrens in New York. Both sites have thin soils, exposed bedrock, an ericaceous shrub layer, and small boggy wetlands scattered throughout.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • 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-scrub oak barrens* (guide)
    A shrub-savanna community that occurs on well-drained, sandy soils that have developed on sand dunes, glacial till, and outwash plains.
  • 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.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • A Zale Moth (Zale largera) (guide)


New York State Distribution

Macaria signaria is known from only two locations 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 are only two known occurrences 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

The global distribution may not be fully known. There are known occurrences in New York and in Maine.

Best Places to See

  • Altona Flat Rock Barrens
  • Gadway Sandstone Pavement Barrens

Identification Comments

General Description

The caterpillar is green with yellow stripes and a reddish brown head. It can reach 22 mm in length (Maier et al. 2003). The moth is similar to other moths in the Macaria genus. It is a small cream-colored moth with dark speckles which are more abundant on the forewings and form wavy parallel lines.

Identifying Characteristics

This species is likely to be difficult to identify by someone not experienced with the Macaria genus. The moth is small and cream-colored with dark speckles which are more abundant on the forewings and form wavy parallel lines. The caterpillar has a green body and a reddish-brown head marked with a dark herringbone pattern (Maier et al. 2003). It may grow to 22 mm in length. Identifying characteristics of the caterpillar include pale subdorsal and spiracular stripes; wide yellow spiracular (side) stripe; yellow patch behind stemmata (extension of spiracular stripe); purplish brown thoracic legs and green prolegs usually with purple shading near the base; dark green middorsal stripe; yellowish white subdorsal stripe with one or two wavy, purplish or dark green longitudinal lines immediately below, especially on anterior body segments. There is also a purplish form of the caterpillar which may result from crowding during rearing (Maier et al. 2003).

Characters Most Useful for Identification

A greenish Macaria caterpillar found on jack pine may be distinguished as M. marmorata by the yellow spiracular stripe on its side which is wider than other similarly occurring species in this genus.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

Adult moths and caterpillars may be idenitified by someone familiar with this genus.


Macaria marmorata moths are nocturnal and may be captured with black lights.


The food plant is jack pine (Pinus banksianae).

Best Time to See

In Maine, there is one generation. The mature caterpillars are present in August and September and the pupa overwinter in the soil and debris (Maier et al. 2003). These dates are not certain but may be similar in New York. Adult moths have been captured in New York in June and July. The emergence date of the adults in the spring is not known so uncertainty between the pupa and adult stage is displayed as present in the phenology table.

  • Present
  • Active
  • Larvae present and active
  • Pupae or prepupae present

The time of year you would expect to find Jack Pine Looper present, active, larvae present and active, and pupae or prepupae present in New York.

Jack Pine Looper Images


Jack Pine Looper
Macaria signaria (Hübner, [1809])

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


  • Semiothisa banksianae Ferguson, 1974

Comments on the Classification

The natureserve website lists this species as Macaria banksianae. Douglas Ferguson worte a monograph before his death on Geometridae that was recently published. This species should belong to the genus Macaria and banksianae was first proposed as the new species name by Ferguson, however, he later determined there wasn't a new species so the name Macaria marmorata stands. NY moth expert Tim McCabe brought the taxonomic name changes to my attention. He verified the name after receiving Fergusons monograph on Geometridae.

Additional Resources


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.

Hodges, R.W. et al., eds. 1983. Check List of the Lepidoptera of America North of Mexico. E.W. Classey Limited and The Wedge Entomological Research Foundation, London. 284 pp.

Maier, C. T., C. R. Lemmon, J. M. Fengler, D. F. Schweitzer and R. C. Reardon. 2003. Caterpillars on the foliage of conifers in the northeastern United States. USDA, Forest Service, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, Forest Health and Technology Enterprise Team. FHTET-02-06, Washington, DC. 151 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.

Scoble, M. J. (ed.), M. S. Parsons, M. R. Honey, L. M. Pitkin, and B. R. Pitkin. 1999. Geometrid moths of the world: a catalogue. Volumes 1 and 2: 1016 pp. + index 129 pp. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria, Australia.

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.

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: November 26, 2019

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Macaria signaria. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/jack-pine-looper/. Accessed April 17, 2024.