Scientific Name: Copablepharon fuscum (Troubridge & Crabo, 1995)
Common Name: Sand-verbena Moth
Global Status (2004): G1G2
National Status: N1N2 (United States); N1 (Canada)
State/Province Statuses: Washington (S1?), British Columbia (S1)
Range, Distribution & Abundance:
The known distribution of this species is limited to coastal areas of southwestern British Columbia (Strait of Georgia and Vancouver Island) and northwestern Washington (Island, San Juan, Jefferson, and Clallam Counties). The moth was first described in 1995 based on specimens collected at Saanichton, British Columbia, and at Deception Pass State Park, Whidbey Island, Washington (Troubridge & Crabo 1995). It is now known from a total of twelve sites, five in Canada, and seven in Washington (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013). Just five of the known Washington sites were confirmed extant in 2012; the species was not detected during 2012 surveys at two Washington sites where this species was found in 2002 (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013).
The distribution of this moth species is strongly tied to the distribution of its only known host plant, yellow sand-verbena (Abronia latifolia). This plant is found on ocean beaches in British Columbia (Southern Gulf Islands, Queen Charlotte Islands, and Vancouver Island) and Washington (San Juan Islands and coastal mainland), as well as on open ocean beaches along the coasts of Oregon and California (Troubridge & Crabo 1995). It is not known if C. fuscum occurs (or once occurred) at any Oregon or California localities (Troubridge & Crabo 1995; Crabo 2012 pers. comm.). Abronia latifolia has declined throughout its range on the Oregon and California coasts due to exotic species invasion, intensive recreational use and urban development (COSEWIC 2003, Troubridge & Crabo 1995). In particular, the introduced European beach grass, Ammophila arenaria (L.) (Gramineae), has stabilized most of the dune habitat on the Pacific Coast, supplanting the native beach vegetation (Troubridge & Crabo 1995). However, additional sampling is needed to determine the presence or absence of C. fuscum at coastal sites in Oregon and California (COSEWIC 2003, Crabo 2012, pers. comm.). Additional surveys at a number of Washington sites are also needed (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013). See Gibble & Fleckenstein (2013) for details and maps of sites that have recently been surveyed for A. latifolia and C. fuscum in Washington. A list of sites that are in need of surveys for C. fuscum is also provided (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013).
Forest Service/BLM Lands: Copablepharon fuscum is Suspected on a small parcel of Spokane District BLM land on Cattle Point (San Juan Island), based on very close proximity to known records of this moth at the DNR-managed Cattle Point NRCA (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013). The Abronia latifolia host plant is prevalent on Cattle Point and has been documented on National Park Service, DNR and private land sites (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013, Gibble 2013, pers. comm.). This plant has not yet been confirmed on Cattle Point BLM land, but is considered very likely to occur there, based on the proximity to nearby populations of this plant, as well as the recently confirmed presence of appropriate habitat that would support this plant (Murphy 2013, pers. comm.). According to Murphy (2013, pers. comm.), the Cattle Point BLM area is the only BLM land on the San Juan Islands that is likely to support A. latifolia, based on extensive botanical surveys of BLM land in this region (Murphy 2012, 2013). BLM sites on Lopez Island (Iceberg Point, Chadwick Hill, Watmough Bay, Point Colville) do not support A. latifolia (Murphy 2013, pers. comm, Murphy 2012, BLM 2010), despite the presence of large patches of this plant elsewhere on Lopez Island (e.g., western coast) (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013, Floristic Atlas of the San Juan Islands 2013, COSEWIC 2003). Similarly, BLM land on Henry Island (Kellet Bluff) does not support this plant (Murphy 2013, pers. comm, Murphy 2013).
Abundance: Abundance estimates and total population sizes have not been documented for the sand-verbena moth. Gibble & Fleckenstein (2013) did not attempt to estimate population sizes due to great day-to-day and annual fluctuations in moth activity and population level, as well as limitations in the survey methodology that was employed. However, at each site where sand-verbena moths were detected, they appeared at all light traps (between one and four) within the first hour after dusk and typically numbered between five and fifteen moths per trap (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013). Troubridge & Crabo (1995) note that although this species is known from very few localities, it can be locally abundant where it occurs. It was the most common noctuid at Deception Pass, Washington in late May and June, 1995 (Troubridge & Crabo 1995).
The sand-verbena moth is limited in distribution by the presence of its only host plant, yellow sand-verbena (Abronia latifolia) (Troubridge & Crabo 1995). This plant grows exclusively at sea level in sandy coastal habitats (dunes, beaches, and spits) that lack dense plant cover and have large expanses of sand (WildEarth Guardians & Xerces Society 2010).
Known C. fuscum populations are associated with large, concentrated populations of the host plant. In recent surveys in Washington, all sites where C. fuscum was found were estimated to contain greater than 400 square meters of A. latifolia foliar cover (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013). However, not all sites with large populations of host plant (> 400 square meters) were found to support this species (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013). The concentration/density of host plants may also be an important habitat variable for this species. Scattered host plants and host plant patches appear less optimal than large, dense patches (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013).
Copablepharon fuscum adults fly from early May to early July, taking flight at dusk and during the night (Page 2007, PNW Moths 2012). Adult moths feed on the nectar of the sand-verbena, using their long proboscis to reach the interior of the trumpet-shaped flowers (COSEWIC 2003). They can be seen moving from flower to flower much like bumblebees feeding on clover (Page 2007). Adult females lay eggs in the sand-verbena’s flowers and possibly in the sand around the plant (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013). Eggs hatch within approximately 2 weeks (COSEWIC 2003; British Columbia Invertebrates Recovery Team 2008). Larvae burrow into the sand during the day and emerge at night to feed on sand-verbena leaves and flowers (Page 2007). Pupation takes place below ground in the sand, underneath verbena patches (COSEWIC 2003; British Columbia Invertebrates Recovery Team 2008). Adults emerge after a pupation period of approximately 10 days (reviewed in WildEarth Guardians & Xerces Society 2010). The adult life span is 7-21 days (reviewed in WildEarth Guardians & Xerces Society 2010). Photographs of the larva, pupa, and adult are available in Tatum (2012).
Copablepharon fuscum is a habitat specialist dependent upon another habitat specialist (A. latifolia) in a highly threatened habitat type, making the long-term security of this species questionable (WildEarth Guardians & Xerces Society 2010, Troubridge & Crabo 1995). Gibble & Fleckenstein (2013) discuss a number of specific threats to this species that were recently observed during their surveys of Washington sites. Most of the Washington beaches visited during their surveys showed evidence of increased competition with A. latifolia by encroaching vascular and nonvascular plants. In some cases the sand deposits had nearly 100% vegetative cover, and A. latifolia plants were stressed and not flowering. These observations suggest that stabilization of sand deposits by invasive plant species is the greatest threat to the host plant and by extension, to C. fuscum, at Washington sites (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013). Colonizing species of concern included native shrubs, forbs and grasses as well as nonnative species, all of which can compete with A. latifolia for space and resources (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013). Dune stabilization by competing plants was particularly a concern at American Camp, where Sisymbrium altissimum is abundant on the dunes, and at Fort Worden, where a variety of native and non-native plants have colonized the dunes. Dune stabilization was also apparent at a number of other sites where A. latifolia populations appeared to be in decline, such as at Waldron Island and Fisherman Bay Spit on Lopez Island (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013).
Additionally, this species is threatened by recreation and development within its ocean-front habitat (WildEarth Guardians & Xerces Society 2010, Troubridge & Crabo 1995). Intentional habitat conversion has affected habitat at several Washington sites in recent years (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013). Paved roads and parking lots have been developed on probable past habitat at several sites, most notably Deception Pass and Fort Worden state parks and American Camp (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013). Significant human use of a number of the beaches, most notably Deception Pass, Fort Worden, and Rocky Beach, has also been observed (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013). Both the host plant and moth larvae are vulnerable to disturbance by foot or vehicular traffic (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013).
Rising sea levels and increased storm surges due to climate change pose further threats to this species (WildEarth Guardians & Xerces Society 2010).
Sea level rise will allow extreme tides and storms to reach higher onto the beach, posing a significant threat to A. latifolia, since this plant occupies a fairly narrow strip of sand between the high tide line and encroaching trees and shrubs at several sites (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013). Coastal erosion of the beaches is a significant concern at all known sites with the possible exception of American Camp where the population extends away from the beach on higher ground (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013).
Spraying of the insecticide Btk (Bacillus thuringensis var. kurstaki) for control of the European gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) is also a significant threat to C. fuscum (WildEarth Guardians & Xerces Society 2010). Btk is lethal to C. fuscum and although it has not yet been used near C. fuscum sites, prevention or control of application could be difficult (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013). Tachinid flies (Family Tachinidae), also used for gypsy moth control, would be equally dangerous to C. fuscum populations (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013). Herbivory of A. latifolia by black-tailed deer (Odocoilues hemionus columbianus), eastern cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus), and European hare (Oryctolagus cuniculus) has been documented and may pose a minor threat (Gibble & Fleckenstein 2013).
A number of additional threats are listed in the Canadian Recovery Strategy (B.C. Invertebrates Recovery Team 2008) and the Endangered Species Act Petition for this species (WildEarth Guardians & Xerces Society 2010).
Prepared by: Sarah Foltz Jordan, Xerces Society
Date: 2 February 2013
Edited by: Sarina Jepsen, Xerces Society
Date: 4 March 2013
Final edits by: Rob Huff, FS/BLM, Portland OR
Date: 9 December 2013
List of pertinent or knowledgeable contacts
Maps of species distribution
Photograph of species host plant
ATTACHMENT 1: References
British Columbia Invertebrates Recovery Team. 2008. Recovery strategy for Sand-verbena Moth (Copablepharon fuscum) in British Columbia. Prepared for the B.C. Ministry of Environment, Victoria, BC. 18 pp. Available at: http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=789
Bureau of Land Management (BLM). 2010. BLM Lands of San Juan County. Significant Ecological, Cultural, Historical, Recreational, Geological, Educational and Scientific Values. Available at: http://www.co.san-juan.wa.us/Docs/CAgendadocs/09-14-2010/Presentation_CNCA_Doc1Appendix_091410.pdf (Accessed 4 Feb. 2013).
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). 2003. COSEWIC assessment and status report on Sand-verbena moth (Copablepharon fuscum) in Canada. Ottawa, ON. 39 pp. Available at: http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/virtual_sara/files/cosewic/sr_sandverbena_moth_e.pdf (Accessed 4 Dec 2012) Species At Risk Act (SARA) Registry. 2009. Species Account for Sand-verbena Moth. Available at: http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/specie/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=789 (Accessed 4 Dec 2012).
Crabo, Lars. 2009, 2012. Lepidopterist, Bellingham, WA. Personal communication with Sarah Foltz Jordan, Xerces Society.
Floristic Atlas of the San Juan Islands. 2013. Abronia latifolia records. Washington University of Washington Herbarium (WTU), Burke Museum. Available at: http://biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/resources/sanjuanatlas.php (Accessed 6 Feb. 2013).
Gibble, W. and J. Fleckenstein. 2013. Copablepharon fuscum (sand-verbena moth) and Abronia latifolia (yellow sand-verbena) Washington State Surveys. Natural Heritage Report 2013-02. Prepared for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 14 January 2013. 16 pp. + appendix.
Gibble, Wendy. 2013. Program Manager, Rare Plant Care and Conservation Program, Seattle, WA. Personal communication with Sarah Foltz Jordan, Xerces Society.
Murphy, M. 2012. Preliminary Plant List for Iceberg Point, Lopez Island,
Washington from field visits in 2005-2012. Available by request from Madrona
Murphy, Kwiaht: Center for the Historical Ecology of the Salish Sea.
Murphy, M. 2013. Plant list for small islands managed by the BLM in San Juan County, Washington. Available by request from Madrona Murphy, Kwiaht: Center for the Historical Ecology of the Salish Sea.
Murphy, M. 2013. Botanist and Genetic Technician, Kwiaht: Center for the Historical Ecology of the Salish Sea, Lopez, WA. Personal communication with Sarah Foltz Jordan, Xerces Society.
NatureServe. 2012. “Copablepharon fuscum.” NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Feb. 2009. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available at: http://www.natureserve.org/explorer/ (Accessed 4 Dec 2012).
Pacific Northwest Moths. 2013. Species profile for Copablepharon fuscum (Troubridge & Crabo, 1996), Sand-verbena Moth. Profile number 93-3287. Available at: http://pnwmoths.biol.wwu.edu/browse/family-noctuidae/subfamily-noctuinae/tribe-noctuini/copablepharon/copablepharon-fuscum/index.html (Accessed 4 Jan. 2013).
Page, N. 2007. Sand-verbena Moth Profile. British Columbia Ministry of Environment Invertebrate Conservation Series. Available at: http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/sand-verbena-moth-factsheet.pdf (Accessed 4 Jan. 2012).
Ross, Dana. 2009. Lepidopterist, Corvallis, OR. Personal communication with Sarah Foltz Jordan, Xerces Society.
Tatum, J. 2012. Butterflies and Moths of Southern Vancouver Island. Available at: http://facweb.furman.edu/~snyderjohn/tatum/489-492.htm (Accessed 4 Jan. 2012).
Troubridge, J.T. and L.G. Crabo. 1995. A new species of Copablepharon (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) from British Columbia and Washington. Journal of the Entomological Society of British Columbia 92: 87-90. Available at: http://www.biology.ualberta.ca/facilities/strickland/cop.pdf (Accessed 4 Jan. 2012).
WildEarth Guardians & The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. 2010. Petition to list the Sand-verbena Moth (Copablepharon fuscum) under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Petition submitted to the U.S. Secretary of Interior Acting through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, February 4th 2010. 19 pp. Available at: http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/sand-verbena-moth-petition.pdf (Accessed 4 Jan. 2012).
ATTACHMENT 2: List of pertinent, knowledgeable contacts:
Lars Crabo, Lepidopterist (regional moth expert), Bellingham, WA.
Madrona Murphy, Botanist and Genetic Technician, Kwiaht: Center for the Historical Ecology of the Salish Sea, Lopez, WA.
Wendy Gibble, Program Manager, Rare Plant Care and Conservation Program, Seattle, WA.
John Fleckenstein, Zoologist, Washington Natural Heritage Program, Olympia, WA.
ATTACHMENT 3: Map of Species Distribution
Records of Copablepharon fuscum in Washington relative to BLM lands.
Records of Copablepharon fuscum on San Juan Island, showing proximity of known records to BLM land on southeast San Juan Island (Cattle Point).
ATTACHMENT 4: Photograph of species host plant
Copablepharon fuscum host plant: Abronia latifolia. Photograph by Celeste Mazzacano and Sarina Jepsen, Xerces Society, used with permission.