Oak family (Fagaceae)

Oaks (Quercus spp.), chestnut (Castanea sp.), and American beech (Fagus grandifolia)

Figure 1. One of Block Island’s only oak trees.

Fagaceae specialists presumed to breed locally, mainly on chestnuts [#records, 2014–2022 unless otherwise noted]

Tischeria quercitella Clemens, 1863 [4 records, all Nathan Mott Park; known hosts of this species are oak and chestnut]

Coptotriche citrinipennella (Clemens, 1859) [10 adult records, of which 6 in Nathan Mott Park, 2 at the Scout camp; also reared from chestnut sapling in Nathan Mott Park and photographed once at Grindley property; known hosts of this species are oak and chestnut]

Phyllonorycter kearfottella (Braun, 1908) [4 records, all single location in Nathan Mott Park on three different nights; chestnut is the only known host of this species]

Neurobathra strigifinitella (Clemens, 1860) [25 records in 2018–2021 quantitative data, of which 14 in Nathan Mott Park, 5 at the Scout camp, 4 at Hunt property; photographed once at Grindley property; known hosts of this species are oak, chestnut, and beech]

Coleotechnites quercivorella (Chambers, 1872) [several records, most or all in Nathan Mott Park; records need to be checked for completeness; oak is the only known host genus of this species, but Block Island records strongly suggest chestnut is a suitable host]

Pseudotelphusa quercinigracella (Chambers, 1872) [7 records, of which 6 in Nathan Mott Park and 1 at Hunt property; species may not be known from chestnut, but Block Island records strongly suggest it is a suitable host]

Nadata gibbosa (Smith, 1797) [25+ records; larvae prefer Fagaceae but have been found on other trees; on Block Island, most records are from Nathan Mott Park and the Scout camp, suggesting the population relies at least mainly on chestnut and beech; two larvae found on chestnut in Nathan Mott Park]

Fagaceae specialists recorded on Block Island likely only as strays [#records, 2014–2022]

Figure 1. Distribution map for records of oak specialists (23 sightings of 18 species) presumed to have been strays, 2018–2022 quantitative data. Four male Heterocampa obliqua at one sheet at the Scout camp (25 July 2020) are counted as a single sighting on the assumption that all were siblings laid on the nearby oaks by a stray gravid female, as are pair of Xenolechia ontariensis at the same sheet at the Scout camp (26 June 2019). Six individual moths in the Chionodes formosella complex have been recorded on Block Island, five of which are part of the 2018–2022 quantitative data. It is unclear whether the specimens represent multiple species, so they are all excluded from analyses for now. All species possibly represented among these specimens are oak-feeding.

Nepticulidae: Stigmella macrocarpae (Freeman, 1967) [1]

Bucculatricidae: Bucculatrix packardella Chambers, 1873 [1]

Gracillariidae: Phyllonorycter fitchella (Clemens, 1860) [1]

Gelechiidae: Trypanisma prudens Clemens, 1860 [1]; Pubitelphusa latifasciella (Chambers, 1875) [1]; Xenolechia ontariensis Keifer, 1933 [3]; Chionodes pereyra Clarke, 1947 [1]; Chionodes sevir Hodges, 1999 [2]; Chionodes thoraceochrella (Chambers, 1872) [3]

Tortricidae: Chimoptesis pennsylvaniana (Kearfott, 1907) [1]; Acleris semipurpurana (Kearfott, 1905) [2]; Argyrotaenia quercifoliana (Fitch, 1858) [2]; Archips semiferanus (Walker, 1863) [2]

Pyralidae: Oneida lunulalis (Hulst, 1887) [1]; Salebriaria turpidella (Ragonot, 1888) [1]; Salebriaria engeli (Dyar, 1906) [1]

Geometridae: Besma quercivoraria (Guenée, [1858]) [4]

Noctuoidea: Peridea angulosa (Smith, 1797) [1]; Macrurocampa marthesia (Cramer, 1780) [1]; Heterocampa obliqua Packard, 1864 [4 — all same night near two oaks in Scout camp, potentially offspring of stray gravid female]; Catocala dejecta Strecker, 1880 [1]; Catocala ilia (Cramer, 1775) [2]; Catocala connubialis Guenée, 1852 [1]; Catocala lineella Grote, 1872 [1]; Acronicta modica (Walker, 1856) [0 — unconfirmed, before 1996]; Acronicta lithospila (Grote, 1874) [1]; Cosmia calami (Harvey, 1876) [4]

Status unclear [#records, 2014–2022]

Blastobasis glandulella (Riley, 1871) [13 records, suggesting species may breed locally utilizing undocumented host; the species is abundant regionally]

Sereda tautana (Clemens, 1865) [only one record; probably a stray but possibly breeding on pair of oaks at Scout camp and otherwise missed due to early flight]

Pococera expandens (Walker, 1863) [several records on Block Island without geographic association with Fagaceae, and this is not an especially common species regionally; may have additional host]

Cyclophora packardi (Prout, 1936) [9 records: 2 at the Scout camp, 3 at Hunt property, 2 at Rohn property possibly misidentified C. myrtaria, 2 at Grindley property; surely breeds on island, likely utilizing host other than oak]

Hyperstrotia pervertens (Barnes & McDunnough, 1918) [4 records on Block Island without geographic association with Fagaceae; may have additional host]



Conifers (Pinales)

Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii), eastern juniper (Juniperus virginiana), tamarack (Larix laricina), and more

Figure 1. Japanese black pines in fixed dune habitat on Block Island, mid-April.
Figure 2. Juniper in fixed dune habitat on Block Island, mid-April.

List of species:


Marmara fasciella (Chambers, 1875)


Periploca nigra Hodges, 1962


Coleotechnites albicostata (Freeman, 1965)

Coleotechnites florae (Freeman, 1960)

Coleotechnites variiella (Chambers, 1872)

Exoteleia sp.

Battaristis vittella (Busck, 1916)

Dichomeris marginella (Fabricius, 1781)


Argyresthia alternatella Kearfott, 1908

Argyresthia thuiella (Packard, 1871)


Taniva albolineana (Kearfott, 1907)

Rhyacionia buolliana ([Denis & Schiffermüller], 1775)

Rhyacionia rigidana (Fernald, 1880)

Eucopina cocana (Kearfott, 1907)

Eucopina tocullionana (Heinrich, 1920)

Zeiraphera canadensis Mutuura & Freeman, [1967]

Cydia toreuta (Grote, 1873)

Argyrotaenia pinatubana (Kearfott, 1905)

Choristoneura fumiferana (Clemens, 1865)

Choristoneura houstonana (Grote, 1873)


Pococera maritimalis (McDunnough, 1939)

Dioryctria abietivorella (Grote, 1878)

Dioryctria reniculelloides Mutuura & Munroe, 1973

Dioryctria disclusa Heinrich, 1953

Dioryctria zimmermani (Grote, 1877)

Moodna pallidostrinella Neunzig, 1990


Macaria minorata Packard, 1873

Macaria bisignata Walker, 1866

Macaria sexmaculata Packard, 1867

Caripeta piniata (Packard, 1870)

Patalene olyzonaria (Walker, 1860)

Species recorded on conifers and other plants as well

Tortricidae: Spilonota ocellana ([Denis & Schiffermüller], 1775) [polyphagous, woody plants, with records on Larix and Picea (both Pinaceae)]; Argyrotaenia velutinana (Walker, 1863) [polyphagous, both woody and herbaceous plants, with records from several conifers]; Choristoneura rosaceana (Harris, 1841) [polyphagous, mainly woody plants, with records from several conifers]; Choristoneura conflictana (Walker, 1863) [feed mainly on <i>Populus</i>]; Archips argyrospila (Walker, 1863) [polyphagous, woody plants, primarily a wide variety of trees]; Syndemis afflictana (Walker, 1863); [polyphagous, woody plants, mainly trees, including conifers]; Xenotemna pallorana (Robinson, 1869) [feed primarily on herbaceous Fabaceae but are polyphagous, have been reported to cause injury to young pines in plantations]; Sparganothis sulfureana (Clemens, 1860) [polyphagous, both woody and herbaceous plants, with records from several conifers]; Amorbia humerosana Clemens, 1860 [polyphagous, woody plants, mainly trees, including conifers]

Pyralidae: Moodna ostrinella (Clemens, 1860) [polyphagous, both woody and herbaceous plants, with records from <i>Pinus</i>]

Limacodidae: Malacosoma disstria Hübner, 1820 [larvae feed on a variety of trees, have been recorded on Pinaceae in outbreak years]

Geometridae: not checked yet

Sphingidae: Sphinx gordius Cramer, 1780 [polyphagous, woody plants including Pinaceae]; Sphinx poecila Stephens, 1828 [polyphagous, woody plants including Pinaceae]

Erebidae: Idia americalis (Guenée, 1854) [detritivore, fungivore, lichenivore; records on HOSTS of Picea and Pseudotsuga (both Pinaceae) may be for live foliage, needle beds, or perhaps fungal associates of conifers]; Idia aemula Hübner, 1814 [detritivore; feeding on live pine needles doubtful on Block Island — see note on taxon page]; Zanclognatha cruralis (Guenée, 1854) [leaf litter, with records on live conifer needles]; Palthis angulalis (Hübner, 1796) [polyphagous on a wide variety of trees]; Zale minerea (Guenée, 1852) [polyphagous, mainly trees]

Noctuidae: Agrotis ipsilon (Hufnagel, 1766) [polyphagous, both woody and herbaceous plants, with several records from conifers]; Acronicta oblinita (J.E. Smith, 1797) [polyphagous, both woody and herbaceous plants]; Acronicta sperata (Grote, 1873) [polyphagous, all records on trees]; Abagrotis alternata (Grote, 1864) [polyphagous, both woody and herbaceous plants]; Actebia fennica (Tauscher, 1806) [polyphagous, both woody and herbaceous plants]; Balsa tristrigella (Walker, 1866) [records from Crataegus, Picea; surely relies on one or more other taxa on Block Island]; Elaphria versicolor (Grote, 1875) [polyphagous, mainly woody plants with many records from conifers]; Euplexia benesimilis McDunnough, 1922 [polyphagous, both woody and herbaceous plants including conifers and ferns]; Eurois occulta (Linnaeus, 1758) [polyphagous, both woody and herbaceous plants]; Melanchra picta (Harris, 1841) [polyphagous, both woody and herbaceous plants]; Orthosia hibisci (Guenée, 1852) [polyphagous, woody plants, primarily a wide variety of trees]; Orthosia rubescens (Walker, 1865) [polyphagous, mainly trees, with a record from Tsuga (Pinaceae) on HOSTS]; Peridroma saucia (Hübner, [1808]) [highly polyphagous, both woody and herbaceous plants]; Phlogophora periculosa Guenée, 1852 [polyphagous, both woody and herbaceous plants]; Spiramater lutra (Guenée, 1852) [polyphagous, both woody and herbaceous plants]; Xestia dilucida (Morrison, 1875) [recorded on Ericaceae and Pinaceae]



Baccharis halimifolia (groundsel bush)

There are five species of microlepidoptera on the East Coast that are known to feed only on Baccharis halimifolia L. (Asteraceae): Bucculatrix ivella (Bucculatricidae), Aristotelia ivae (Gelechiidae), Epiblema discretivana (Tortricidae), Lorita baccharivora (Tortricidae), and Hellinsia balanotes (Pterophoridae). All five of these species occur on Block Island, which is near the northern end of the host plant’s range. Additionally, Macaria varadaria and Eusarca fundaria (both Geometridae) are known (in the former case) and suspected (in the latter case, per George Smiley) to be specialists on Baccharis in the Southeast US, but neither appears to have been recorded in the Northeast.

Figure 1. Adults of the five Baccharis specialist micromoths of the Eastern US. Photo of Aristotelia ivae courtesy of George Smiley (TX). All other photos are of moths that came to the Hunt property lights on Block Island.

Baccharis is a very large Neotropical genus of hundreds of species, only a few of which occur in the Eastern US. B. halimifolia is the northernmost representative of the genus, occurring throughout the Deep South and north along the coast to Cape Cod, with isolated populations along a stretch of the southwest coast of Nova Scotia. A few other Baccharis species occur in Florida and along the coast north to the Outer Banks, and a number of species occur in the Western US. Common names for B. halimifolia include eastern baccharis, groundsel bush, sea myrtle, and saltbush, though the plant is often called simply baccharis across most of its range, where it is the only native member of its genus. I will use the common name eastern baccharis in this article to distinguish the species from the North American congeners I will mention.

Figure 2. Observations of Baccharis halimifolia on iNaturalist (“Research Grade” only). North of the Carolinas, the species historically occurred mainly along the immediate coast; recently it has proliferated along some highways where heavy salting in winter favors salt-tolerant species.

On Block Island, eastern baccharis occurs in salt marsh and dune habitats. In salt marshes, it may be confused with marsh elder (Iva frutescens L.) (Asteraceae), which typically occurs only in a narrow band just above the reach of spring tides. Three of the five moth species that specialize on eastern baccharis were described in the early 1900s from specimens reared from plants misidentified as marsh elder, and all three unfortunately have specific epithets derived from their supposed host plants: Bucculatrix ivella, Aristotelia ivae, and Phalonidia elderana (Kearfott, 1907), which is almost certainly a senior synonym of Lorita baccharivora. Diatloff and Palmer (1988) studied the host specificity of A. ivae and L. baccharivora to determine their suitability for release as biocontrols of eastern baccharis in Australia, where it is invasive. Both species were found to have high host fidelity, though marsh elder unfortunately was not one of the plants tested.

Figure 3. Sighting locations of eastern baccharis specialist moths on iNaturalist and BugGuide as of September 2022. Hellinsia balanotes is excluded due to difficulty of identification; the species has been collected along the coastal plain from Texas to Massachusetts with scattered records from the Southwest, where other species of Baccharis occur.

Bucculatrix ivella Busck, 1900 (Bucculatricidae) is a leafminer. The last instar exits the mine and feeds externally, I think for a day or two, leaving characteristic markings on leaves. The larvae probably pupate on the host plant or on lower plants; I once found a cocoon on a blade of grass below the host.

Aristotelia ivae Busck, 1900 (Gelechiidae) feeds externally in loose silken shelters. George Smiley described the feeding habit and evidence to me as follows: “They are upper surface feeders [that build] a large loose web with multiple silk paths to feeding sites… Most of the time they start at the tip and as they grow in size they extend their web down to lower/larger leaves but occasionally it appears one sets up further down. I suppose that may be a parental decision. When not feeding they hang out in the loose web and from a good angle are easier to spot” (pers. comm. 17 ix 2022). This is the only Baccharis specialist with a likely record from Nova Scotia, a photograph of an adult taken in 2020. The sighting is from some 25km away from the nearest known Baccharis populations but on the immediate coast, indicating there may be one or more new or previously unnoticed populations of the host in the area. While I am fairly confident of the identification, A. fungivorella adults are similar enough to those of A. ivae that I can’t be certain; records of larvae or a collected adult specimen would be needed to confirm this large range extension.

Epiblema discretivana (Heinrich, 1921) (Tortricidae)

Lorita baccharivora Pogue, 1988 (Tortricidae) is a seed feeder.

Hellinsia balanotes (Meyrick, 1908) (Pterophoridae) is a stem borer.

*Macaria varadaria (Walker, 1860) (Geometridae) is a surface feeder.

*Eusarca fundaria (Guenée, [1858]) (Geometridae) is a surface feeder.

Diatloff G. & W.A. Palmer, 1988. The host specificity and biology of Aristotelia ivae Busck (Gelechiidae) and Lorita baccharivora Pogue (Tortricidae), two microlepidoptera selected as biological control agents for Baccharis halimifolia (Asteraceae) in Australia. Proc. Entomol. Soc. Wash. 90(4): 458–461.

Mazerlle D. & Blaney S., 2010. COSEWIC Status Report on Eastern Baccharis Baccharis halimifolia in Canada prepared for Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, 44 pp.



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Figure 1. Map of Block Island with survey sites and areas and the more northern sites surveyed in the Clay Head preserve highlighted.
Figure 2. Land cover analysis of the Hunt property area within 150′ and 400′ of a point near the center of the sites where I have set sheets since 2020. Percent cover values are for within 400′ and exclude non-habitat cover. The pair of sites in the northwest part of the highlighted area in Fig. 1 were surveyed only 14 July 2018 and are outside this map; I have not quantified land cover in that area.


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Figure 1. Map of Block Island with survey sites and areas and the Sandy Point / Sachem Pond survey area highlighted.
Figure 2. Land cover analysis of Sandy Point within 150′ and 400′ of a point near the center of the four locations of two sheets 14 August 2018 and 7 June 2019. Percent cover values are for within 400′ and exclude non-habitat cover. Starting in 2020, I have surveyed a location to the east on the narrow strip of land on the north shore of Sachem Pond due to greater ease of access.