The larvae or caterpillar stage of this moth is actually quite striking. The pink-orange body is marked with black, white, or yellow striping. But beware, the body is covered with stinging hairs.
In New York, this species is known only from one location in the the dwarf pine barrens on Long Island. Additional populations within the pine barrens may eventually be found. This is a more southern, habitat-specific species and therefore is not likely to occur elsewhere in New York, which represents the northern edge of its range.
This species appears to be stable on Long Island. Surveys since 1993 have indicated little change in the dwarf pine barrens population on Long Island with the exception of the 2005 survey, which showed a dramatic increase in numbers of moths found. It is unclear what caused this sudden increase, but forest fires in the dwarf pine plains may have resulted in an increase in habitat for this species.
The long-term trend for this species in New York is unknown. Long Island represents the northern part of its range so it has always been rare here. The long-term trend for this species is tied to the long-term trend for the natural community it lives in. The acreage of dwarf pine plains in New York has declined from historical acreage due to development and suppression of fires.
Known threats include habitat loss due to development and fire suppression, although the threat of development for the remaining habitat on Long Island may be low. The suppression of fires in barrens and other dry places would cause a loss of habitat for the species and therefore a reduction in population size. This species requires open woodland or barrens with pitch pine and scrub oaks. Forest fires are needed, on average, every 5-10 years (Jordan et al. 2003) to maintain this type of habitat. Lack of fires will result in the succession of this community to a closed-canopy forest of tall oaks and other hardwoods (Little 1979, Jordan et al. 2003). Conversely, a fire affecting an entire occurrence could eliminate all life stages that are present.
The best management strategy for this species is the management of the natural community, or habitat, where this species occurs. Maintaining the Long Island 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.
Additional surveys are needed with blacklight traps to determine the full extent of the dwarf pine barrens occurrence. In addition, the response of this species to management practices such as controlled burns and mechanical removal of vegetation should be evaluated.
In New York State, the Pin-striped Slug Moth is found only in the dwarf pine barrens on Long Island. These open, dry woodlands are dominated by a mixture of dwarf pitch pine and scrub oak, the latter of which is the host species for the caterpillar.
The record from the dwarf pine barrens is the first for New York State and the first north of New Jersey.
This species occurs from New York and New Jersey to Florida, west to Texas, and north to Kansas and Missouri (NatureServe 2010).
This species can be identified from a good image or any specimen. The wingspan ranges from 19-27 mm. The forewing is brown, sometimes reddish brown. The only marking is a narrow, wavy, silvery white to yellowish line above the inner margin (Covell 1984). The larvae (caterpillars) are peach colored with wavy, bright reddish-orange, black, or dark brown vertical striping in three sequences of a four-stripe pattern. The bright reddish-orange stripes are covered with numerous white, stinging hairs.
Adults have been observed in June and into July. The larvae or caterpillar stage typically exists from July to September. In the north, there is only one generation each year. This species is not well studied and therefore the entire life history is not well documented.
The time of year you would expect to find Pin-striped Slug Moth present, reproducing, and larvae present and active in New York.
Pin-striped Slug Moth
Monoleuca semifascia (Walker, 1855)
Covell, Charles V. 1984. A field guide to the moths of eastern North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.
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.
Holland, W.J. 1968. The moth book. Dover Publications, NY, 479 pp. An unabridged version first published in 1903 by Doubleday, Page, and Co.
Jordan, M. J., W. A. Patterson III, A. G. Windisch. 2003. Conceptual ecological models for the Long Island pitch pine barrens: implications for managing rare plant communities. Forest Ecology and Management 185, 151-168.
Little, S. 1979. Fire and plant succession in the New Jersey pine barrens. pp. 297-313 in Forman, R.T.T. (ed.) Pine Barrens: Ecosystem and Landscape. Academic Press, Inc. Orlando, FL.
McGuinness, Hugh D. 2009. Moths of fire: a study of the macro-lepidoptera in burned and unburned plots at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Sarnoff Preserve in Flanders, Suffolk County, New York. 2006-2008. Report for the Long Island Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.
McGuinness, Hugh. 2006. Overview of the 2005 Dwarf Pine Plains data.
Mississippi Entomological Museum. No date. Mississippi State University. Mississippi. http://mississippientomologicalmuseum.org.msstate.edu//index.html.
NatureServe. 2010. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available http://www.natureserve.org/explorer. (Data last updated August 2010)
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.
North American Moth Photographers Group at the Mississippi Entomological Museum. No date. Mississippi State University, Mississippi. http://mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu/MainMenu.shtml
Opler, Paul A., Kelly Lotts, and Thomas Naberhaus, coordinators. 2010. Butterflies and Moths of North America. Bozeman, MT: Big Sky Institute. <http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/> (accessed May 2010).
Wagner, D.L., V. Giles, R.C. Reardon, and M.L. McManus. 1997. Caterpillars of eastern forests. USDA, Forest Service, Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team, FHTET-96-34, Washington, DC. 113 pp.
This guide was authored by: Lauren Lyons-Swift
Information for this guide was last updated on: December 19, 2011
Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. Online Conservation Guide for Monoleuca semifascia. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/pin-striped-slug-moth/. Accessed January 29, 2023.