New York Natural Heritage Program
A Hand-maid Moth
Datana ranaeceps (Guérin-Méneville, 1844)
Insects

Threats [-]
Elimination and fragmentation of habitat by commercial and residential development are threats to the species. In addition, since larvae of the species usually are found in very open habitats and most often on sprouts, the species apparently requires recurrent fires or mowing to persist in its coastal plain habitats, and fire suppression and allowing natural succession would decrease the amount of suitable habitat for the species. Forestry practices that result in closed canopy pine stands or destruction of understory would severely impact the species. Application of the insecticide Dimilin would cause very high mortality of larvae for the rest of the season (NatureServe 2010).

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices [-]
In New Jersey, this is primarily a species of recently burned pitch pine lowlands, and larvae can be abundant after wildfires. Since the larvae usually are found in very open habitats and most often on sprouts, the species apparently requires recurrent fires or mowing to persist in its coastal plain habitats. Generally prescribed burning would be the preferred management for habitats other than right of ways. Prescribed burning at any season should be beneficial where the pine canopy is sparse but probably irrelevant in shaded woods if the understory is burned without canopy thinning. In New Jersey and North Carolina the species often occurs with rarer species with similar management needs. Decreasing wildfire frequency has substantially reduced the habitat in New Jersey since the 1960s and since light winter prescribed burns there do not affect the increasingly dense canopy, this and most other specialized barrens species probably do not benefit. Since pupae are underground and some overwinter twice, the species should not be seriously impacted in the long term by mortality even from summer fires, which would kill eggs, larvae, and adults, unless these occurred very frequently. Forestry practices that result in closed canopy pine stands or destruction of understory would severely impact the species, although it could be present initially in young plantings where there is native understory. Timber harvest should be beneficial in places with dense pine canopy (NatureServe 2010). In addition to habitat management, restricting dirt bike and ATV use in occupied areas would be beneficial. Gypsy Moth outbreaks are not likely to be a factor in coastal plain habitats of the species since these habitats usually do not have many oaks or other highly susceptible trees, but few larvae would be exposed to typical BTK applications aimed at that pest which would be made well before eggs are laid. Use of Dimilin would cause very high mortality of larvae for the rest of the season (NatureServe 2010).

Research Needs [-]
Additional research is needed to resolve the taxonomy and distribution of the species. Additional inventory and monitoring is also needed. Last instar larvae are very easy to identify. In New York State, the species is best sought as larvae on the main larval foodplant, stagger-bush (Lyonia mariana), in July.