SEMPBA Logo Pine Barrens in fall



Ipink heartMoths

A support program for the rare moths of the southeastern Massachusetts Atlantic Coastal Pine Barrens

Several species of pine barrens moths have become rare as a result of fire suppression which causes the loss of various stages of pitch pine/scrub oak successional habitat. SEMPBA is hoping to reduce this trend by promoting the use of prescribed fire as one of the management tools in habitat restoration. You can easily support rare moths by planting one or more of the native plants in your yard that rare moths require. Pitch pine (Pinus rigida), Scrub Oak (Quercus ilicifolia), low bush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), and black cherry trees (Prunus serotina) will benefit the wondrous H. cecropia as well as other moth species and are also highly beneficial wildlife food plants. Contact for local suppliers of native plants.

If you'd like to support rare pine barrens moths but don't have a yard, consider volunteering with SEMPBA or other conservation organizations or Friends groups that value pitch pine-scrub oak habitats and help out in our work parties. You might consider organizing invasive plant removal work parties in your community to help control invasive plants on town conservation lands.

SEMPBA is planning a model native plant garden highlighting the plants most beneficial to rare pine barrens moths. Below is the chart that will guide our garden. We hope you will support rare pine barrens moths by installing these plants in your garden too.

The Ipink heartMoths campaign was originally conceived by Casey Shetterly, a former SEMPBA board member.

Primary Massachusetts Pine Barrens Moth Species

Compiled for SEMPBA by Wildlife Biologist and SEMPBA Board Member Stephanie Schmidt

Common Name Scientific Name MA Status Habitat Larval Food
Barrens Daggermoth Acronicta albarufa T open pitch pine w/scrub oak thickets*; large plots of early successional*** scrub oak* chestnut, oak, possibly beech**
Gerhard's Underwing  Catocala herodias gerhardi SC open pitch pine w/scrub oak thickets* scrub oak*
Waxed Sallow Moth Chaetaglaea cerata SC pitch pine/scrub oak*; early successional huckleberry, lowbush blueberry*
Melsheimer's Sack Bearer  Cicinnus melsheimeri T scrub oak w/in frost pockets*; early successional**** scrub oak*,**
Slender Clearwing Sphinx Moth Hemaris gracilis SC pitch pine/scrub oak barrens* lowbush blueberry*, **; possibly other laurels**
Barrens Buckmoth  Hemileuca maia SC open barrens w/ extensive scrub oak thickets* scrub oak (mainly) *, **
Water-willow Stem Borer  Papaipema sulphurata T edges of streams, swamps, wetlands* water-willow (Decodon verticillatus)*
Pink Sallow Moth  Psectraglaea carnosa SC ericaceous veg. in pitch pine/oak barrens* possibly lowbush blueberry*
Pine Barrens Speranza  Speranza exonerata SC scrub oak sandplain barrens* scrub oak*
Pine Barrens Zale  Zale lunifera SC sandplain barrens; scrub oak thickets* scrub oak*; beach plum, cherry**
Pine Barrens Zanclognatha  Zanclognatha martha T pitch pine/scrub oak barrens; late successional barrens* pitch pine*

* information from corresponding NHESP Rare Species document
**Wagner. 2005. Caterpillars of Eastern North America. Princeton Univ. Press, NJ. 512 pp.
***US Forest Service,


Raising Cecropia at SEMPBA!

Thanks to Stephanie Schmidt, Wildlife Biologist and SEMPBA Board Member, SEMPBA has become a nursery for 20 cecropia (Hyalophora cecropia) moths, who will remain in their cocoons until sometime late May or early June. Cecropia are the largest moths in North America, sometimes reaching a wingspan of six inches. You may visit the cecropia in their cacoons and, hopefully, watch them emerge and fly away when we release them into the pine barrens. SEMPBA volunteers are planning a Moth Nursery Viewing Station as part of the new Moth Garden at the SEMPBA Community Conservation Center, 204 Long Pond Road in Plymouth.

Photo, Hyalophora cecropia1, courtesy of Tom Peterson, Fermilab.

Why moths matter

*Moths evolved before butterflies, more than approximately 150 million years ago; they are intrinsic to biodiversity but are in decline world wide.
*Moth transformation from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to a flying creature is a wonder of nature.
* Moths are an important part of the food chain, providing a rich food for bats, birds, frogs, and other insectavores, including humans.
*Chemicals produced by moths have unexplored economic and health-benefits potential.
*Moths are indicators of ecosystem health and human sensibility (will we really allow more species to go extinct?).

The Moth Ball

In recognition of National Moth Week, the SEMPBA Moth Ball is a celebration of the amazing moths of the Southeastern Massachusetts Pine Barrens.

Celebrate Pine Barrens Moths with SEMPBA on July 24 at the 2nd Annual Moth Ball. Location TBD (too big a crowd last year to hold the Moth Ball at the SEMPBA Conservation Center). Highlights and photos from the 2014 Moth Ball are here.

National Moth Week is July 18-26, 2015. Visit National Moth for more about the national movement to support moths.

SEMPBA's Award of Participation given for promoting moth conservation during National Moth Week 2014.

National Moth Week Certificate of Participation