New York Natural Heritage Program
Black-eyed Zale
Zale curema (Smith, 1908)
Insects

General Description [-]
A medium sized, brownish, late spring pine feeding moth with green and white striped larvae that are similar to other Zale larvae.

Identifying Characteristics [-]
This species needs to be verified by an expert as it is very commonly misidentified. The species is difficult to characterize, and specimens illustrated as Zale curema by Rings et al. (1992; Plate XII:26, 27) are southern Zale helata. Northern (e.g. New York) specimens of Zale helata are more similar to Zale curema and Zale metatoides is also a similar species. Besides genitalia characters given by Forbes (1954), the color is somewhat distinctive. This moth is a rather dark purplish color, with the lines blackish, but not as prominent as in southern Zale helata, the reniform spot on the forewing is contrastingly black, and there is usually no white spot on the forewing. Zale curema will almost always occur with Zale helata and Zale metatoides and their flight seasons are nearly the same. The larva is similar to other green and white striped Zale larvae and is illustrated by Maier et al. (2004). It is not certain whether the larvae can be reliably identified to species. The adults should be verified from actual specimens by genitalia and wing characters, although good photographs might suffice.

Characters Most Useful for Identification [-]
The genitalia of either sex is used as the identifying characteristic. A few experts can determine the species based on the wing color by comparison to a series of the similar species. Even an expert will have difficulty identifying this species reliably on bait or at lights at night, so one should always collect several suspected specimens in order to identify new occurrences.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification [-]
Identification should be based on the adults, although the last instar (stage) larvae have been illustrated and possibly can be identified.

Behavior [-]
The adults are nocturnal and are usually collected at bait, but they may also show up at lights with persistent survey effort.

Diet [-]
The larvae eat needles, especially new growth, of Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida).
Black-eyed Zale Images
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The Best Time to See
The adults occur during most of May into about mid-June, and possibly occur in very late April. There is no second brood anywhere in the range. The larvae occur on Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida) from about mid or late May through July. Most of the year is spent as pupae in the leaf litter or humus layer.
J F M A M J J A S O N D
Reproducing Larvae present and active Pupae or prepupae present
The time of year you would expect to find Black-eyed Zale reproducing (blue shading), larvae present and active (green shading) and pupae or prepupae present (orange shading) in New York.