Umber Moth

Hypomecis umbrosaria (Hübner, 1813)

Hypomecis sp.
Hugh McGuinness

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
Unrankable - Currently unrankable due to lack of information or due to substantially conflicting information about status or trends.
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?

Geometridae are also known as "inchworm moths" because of their distinctive larval form.

State Ranking Justification

Covell (1984) says this species is common rangewide. However, there is one known extant occurrence in the state. Further investigation is needed to determine the status.

Short-term Trends

The short-term trends are unknown.

Long-term Trends

The long-term trends are unknown.

Conservation and Management


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 could cause a loss of habitat for the species and therefore a drop in population size. Conversely, a fire affecting an entire occurrence could eliminate all life stages that are present.

This species is attracted to artificial lighting. Artificial lighting can: increase predation risk, disrupt behaviors such as feeding, flight, and reproduction, and interfere with dispersal between habitat patches. In addition, many individuals die near the light source. It is not known if the impact of artificial lighting is severe, but the impact is likely greater for small, isolated populations (Schweitzer et al. 2011).

The use of insecticides and biocontrols can also eliminate or greatly impact many non-target species populations. Persistent use of insecticides and biocontrols could potentially eliminate local populations.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

The best management strategy for this species is the management of the natural community or habitat where it occurs. Historically, fire has played a role in maintaining maritime grasslands. 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. Schweitzer et al. (2011) suggests waiting five years before burning a unit again to give the lepidopteran population a chance to recolonize and increase local populations to withstand another fire. It may also be beneficial to know the locations of rare lepidopterans since there's a chance of losing localized populations if there are no individuals at the area set aside as refugia (Schweitzer et al. 2011).

In addition, minimizing lighting to maintain dark sky conditions would be beneficial. When lighting is necessary, it's best to use lights that emit red or yellow light because insects are generally not attracted to those colors. However, many sodium lights, which emit yellow light, are so bright that they do attract some insects. The best lighting appears to be low pressure sodium lights which have little effect on flying insects (Schweitzer et al. 2011).

Insecticide use should be avoided when possible if rare species are present. When insecticide use cannot be avoided, careful planning along with consistent rare species monitoring, can result in successful eradication of the target species without eliminating rare species. A biocontrol alternative is Bacillus thuringiensis (Btk) for some target species, such as spongy moths. However, sensitivity to Btk varies among native species and this option should be fully researched for treatment timing and regimes and weighed with other options to have the least impact on native lepidopteran populations (Schweitzer et al. 2011).

Research Needs

It would be beneficial to determine the ability of this species to persist after fires within pine barrens habitat and how the species has responded at sites where fire has been suppressed. Further investigation is needed to determine this species' habitat needs in New York.



In New York, umber moths have been found between maritime dunes and maritime grassland habitats. Further investigation is needed to determine this species' habitat needs in New York. NatureServe (2011) considers this to be a pine barrens species.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Maritime dunes* (guide)
    A community dominated by grasses and low shrubs that occurs on active and stabilized dunes along the Atlantic coast. The composition and structure of the vegetation is variable depending on stability of the dunes, amounts of sand deposition and erosion, and distance from the ocean.
  • Maritime grassland* (guide)
    A grassland community that occurs on rolling outwash plains of the glaciated portion of the Atlantic coastal plain, near the ocean and within the influence of offshore winds and salt spray.

* probable association but not confirmed.


New York State Distribution

There are historical records from Orient (Suffolk County) and an extant occurrence from a East Hampton (Suffolk County).

Global Distribution

Covell (1984) gives the range as Maine to Florida, west to Missouri and Texas and Wagner et al. (2001) gives the range as Wisconsin to Cape Cod, Massachusetts south to Florida and Texas. Umber moths have not been recorded in Connecticut (Wagner et al. 2001).

Best Places to See

  • Hither Hills State Park (Suffolk County)

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

Umber moths have a wingspan of 2.6-4 cm. Wings are pale to dark gray with scalloped, jagged antemedial, postmedial, and subterminal lines that are black. All wings have discal spots that are elliptical and hollow (Covell 1984). Larvae are approximately 37 mm in length. The head is "reddish brown with areas of dark brown composed of irregular spots." The body is "mottled in shades of reddish brown" (Heitzman 1982).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification



Birches and oaks have been recorded as larval food plants (Covell 1984, Wagner et al. 2001).

Best Time to See

Throughout the umber moth's range, the active dates are from April until August (Covell 1984). On Long Island, they are most likely to be found May through June (Schweitzer 1998).

  • Present
  • Active

The time of year you would expect to find Umber Moth present and active in New York.

Similar Species

  • Buchholz's Gray (Hypomecis buchholzaria)
    Buchholz's Gray have wings that are dark gray, dark brown, or blackish. Lines are poorly defined.

Umber Moth Images


Umber Moth
Hypomecis umbrosaria (Hübner, 1813)

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

Comments on the Classification


Additional Resources


Covell, Charles V. 1984. A field guide to the moths of eastern North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

Forbes, William T. M. 1948. Lepidoptera of New York and neighboring states part II. Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station Memoir 274.

Heitzman, R.L. 1982. Descriptions of the mature larva and pupa of Hypomecis umbrosaria Lepidoptera Geometridae. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 84: 111-116.

NatureServe. 2011. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available (Accessed: April 17, 2012 ).

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

Schweitzer, D.F., M.C. Minno, and D.L. Wagner. 2011. Rare, Declining, and Poorly Known Butterflies and Moths (Lepidoptera) of Forests and Woodlands in the Eastern United States. USFS Technology Transter Bulletin, FHTET-2009-02.

Schweitzer, Dale F. 1998. Rare, potentially rare, and historic macrolepidoptera for Long Island, New York: A suggested inventory list.

Wagner, D.L., D.C. Ferguson, T.L. McCabe, and R.C. Reardon. 2001. Geometrid caterpillars of northeastern and Appalachian forests. USDA, Forest Service, Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team, FHTET-2001-10, Washington, DC. 239 pp.


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: June 27, 2012

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Hypomecis umbrosaria. Available from: Accessed June 21, 2024.