Waxed Sallow

Chaetaglaea cerata Franclemont, 1943

Chaetaglaea cerata
Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility (CBIF)

Insecta (Insects)
Noctuidae (Owlet 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?

This species may require high quality pine barrens habitat and while prescribed burning is beneficial, extensive burning of the habitat during inappropriate seasons may be detrimental to the larvae, eggs, or adults.

State Ranking Justification

This species is known from two locations in the Albany Pine Bush and two locations on Long Island.

Short-term Trends

This species population likely increased in the Dwarf Pine Barrens on Long Island after the wildfires of the 1990s, but this has not been confirmed. An additional location was found on Long Island in 2007. A single moth was found in 2014 in the Albany Pine Bush indicating continued presence in the area.

Long-term Trends

Long term trends indicate a decline in the population of 25% to 75%, primarily due to the loss of pine barrens habitat.

Conservation and Management


The main threat is loss of habitat. It is unknown how this species is faring with recent active fire management. Occasional partial burning should benefit this species, but a population could be eradicated if the entire habitat were to burn between October and mid-June.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

This species seems to usually require high quality barrens in some, but not all, parts of the range. It is vulnerable to fire from October to June. Most beneficial fires should occur from July to mid-September when prepupae and pupae are in the soil. The entire occupied habitat should not be burned during fire management practices. Periodic controlled burns or mechanical management are needed to maintain the natural community for this species. The best management strategy is to manage the natural community, or habitat, where this species occurs. Maintaining pine barrens with their full suite of plant and animal species requires frequent (every five to 10 years) 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.

Research Needs

The response of this species to management practices at the Albany Pine Bush is an important research need. Additional studies on population size and trends are also needed.



In New York, this species is found in pitch-pine scrub oak barrens on sand and maritime dunes and maritime grasslands. In adjacent states, and in much of the range, most habitats are in some type of pine or oak barren, but some populations are found on rock rather than sand. In western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and one New Hampshire location, other habitats besides pine barrens or oak scrub are also used.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • 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 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.
  • 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.

Associated Species

  • Herodias or Pine Barrens Underwing (Catocala herodias gerhardi) (guide)
  • The Buckmoth (Hemileuca maia)
  • Pink Sallow (Psectraglaea carnosa) (guide)
  • Edwards' Hairstreak (Satyrium edwardsii) (guide)


New York State Distribution

In New York, this species has been collected at the Albany Pine Bush and Long Island since 1980. There is also a specimen at North Carolina State University that was collected from Poughkeepsie in the 1960s.

Global Distribution

Chaetaglaea cerata has a very localized, disjunct distribution from Aweme Manitoba through Wisconsin and southern Ontario to southern Maine, south to central Pennsylvania, central Ohio, northern West Virginia, southeast Connecticut and Long Island, New York. There have been a few recent collections in the Ottawa area as reported by Handfield (1999), and one verified by Dale Schweitzer, but none yet in Quebec.

Identification Comments

General Description

A remarkably non-variable moth easily identified from a specimen by anyone familiar with the Noctuidae family of moths. Separation from the common and variable moth, Chaetaglaea sericea, might be difficult or impossible from a field photo taken under artificial light at night. All accepted records for new sites should be based on collected specimens.

Identifying Characteristics

See illustrations such as Rings et al. (1992), Handfield (1999), or the key in Frobes (1954).  The forewing is distinctive. Note the grayish ground color, the slightly reddish (rust color) lines, the median line crossing the reniform (a particular spot on the wing), the rounded reniform and orbicular spots which are well defined with paler outlines and of similar size, and the lack of any small black dot in the former. The wing veins are not partially pale. There is almost no variation in color and very minimal variation in markings.  Compare to Chaetaglaea sericea, which usually is immediately separable by the dot in the reniform, but is sometimes about the same color. The larva has not been described or illustrated, but is more prominently striped than related species.

Characters Most Useful for Identification

The forewing is distinctive. Note the grayish ground color, the slightly reddish (rust color) lines, the median line crossing the reniform (a particular spot on the wing), the rounded reniform and orbicular spots which are well defined with paler outlines and of similar size, and the lack of any small black dot in the former.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification



Unlike almost all cool season Noctuidae, this one very seldom comes to baits. It is usually collected at blacklights or mercury vapor lights within a couple hours after sunset. This species was very largely overlooked before the introduction of blacklights.


The adults may not feed much, other than sipping water, but this is not known. Larvae feed on spring growth, apparently on scrub oak, other small oaks, and blueberry. The larvae seem to prefer species of cherry if present.

Best Time to See

The adults occur in October, with some likely present by the end of September and persisting into November on Long Island. The eggs overwinter and hatch shortly after the oaks leaf out in late April or early May. The larval stage is probably about five or six weeks in the wild, but will vary with temperature. The larvae must mature while still soft foliage is available and likely mature by approximately 10 June.

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

The time of year you would expect to find Waxed Sallow reproducing, larvae present and active, eggs present outside adult, and pupae or prepupae present in New York.

Waxed Sallow Images


Waxed Sallow
Chaetaglaea cerata Franclemont, 1943

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Arthropoda (Mandibulates)
      • Class Insecta (Insects)
        • Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies, Skippers, and Moths)
          • Family Noctuidae (Owlet 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.

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. 1954. Lepidoptera of New York and Neighboring States, Noctuidae, Part III. Memoir 329. Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station. Ithaca, NY.

Handfield, Louis, 1999. Le Guide des Papillons du Quebec, Scientific Version. Broquet Inc, Boucherville, Quebec, Canada, 155pp + plates.

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.

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

Rings, R. W., E. H. Metzler, F. J. Arnold, and D. H. Harris. 1992. The Owlet Moths of Ohio (Order Lepidoptera, family Noctuidae). Ohio Biol. Surv. Bull. New Series, Vol. 9, no. 2, vi. + 219 pp., 16 color plates.

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

This guide was authored by: Hollie Y. Shaw

Information for this guide was last updated on: June 28, 2018

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Chaetaglaea cerata. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/waxed-sallow/. Accessed February 25, 2024.