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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Systematic Entomology Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #332294

Research Project: Systematics of Lepidoptera: Invasive Species, Pest and Biological Control Agents

Location: Systematic Entomology Laboratory

Title: Two psammophilic noctuids (Lepidoptera) newly associated with beach plum Prunus maritima: The Dune Noctuid (Sympistis riparia) and Coastal Heathland Cutworm (Abagrotis nefascia) in Northeastern North America

item Goldstein, Paul
item Nelson, Michael - Massachusetts Department Of Environmental Protection

Submitted to: ZooKeys
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/15/2017
Publication Date: 3/14/2017
Citation: Goldstein, P.Z., Nelson, M.W. 2017. Two psammophilic noctuids (Lepidoptera) newly associated with beach plum Prunus maritima: The Dune Noctuid (Sympistis riparia) and Coastal Heathland Cutworm (Abagrotis nefascia) in Northeastern North America. ZooKeys. 661:61-89.

Interpretive Summary: We identify Beach Plum Prunus maritima, which is currently being explored as a developing crop, as the host plant of the Dune Noctuid Sympistis riparia, the larva of which we figure for the first time, and er describe the association of another noctuid, Abagrotis nefascia, with the same plant. Although both moths are prominently known as habitat indicators, the larval biology of both species had been poorly understood and the taxonomic history of A. nefascia historically problematic. We examine dissections of both type specimens and recently collected specimens, as well as available DNA barcode data, and use these data to revise the status of eastern Abagrotis nefascia as Abagrotis benjamini.

Technical Abstract: Beach Plum Prunus maritima Marshall 1785 not Wangenh. 1787 (Rosaceae) represents both a new crop under development and an under-acknowledged host plant for several Lepidoptera rthat have undergone declines in the Northeastern USA. The Coastal Heathland Cutworm Abagrotis nefascia (Smith) and the Dune Noctuid Sympistis riparia (Morrison, 1875) are unrelated species of psammophilic noctuines (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) regularly encountered in coastal southern New England and New York but whose precise life history requirements are undocumented. Based on field observation and rearing, we identify Beach Plum as a primary larval host for these species in Massachusetts and discuss the plant's role in sustaining other moths of regional interest. Sympistis riparia belongs to a widely distributed complex of closely related species, and has been associated specifically with both maritime and freshwater dunes. The eastern populations of Abagrotis nefascia represent a conspicuous eastern disjunction, separated from the nearest western populations by more than 2000 miles, and originally described as var. benjamini of A. crumbi Franclemont, 1955. Following examination of types and an evaluation of putatively diagnostic features in the male genitalia and wing patterning (although none was evident from DNA barcodes), the status of benjamini Franclemont is revisited. Based on genitalic characters, results of provisional barcode analyses, and features noted in the original description, Abagrotis benjamini Franclemont NEW STATUS is elevated in reference to eastern populations of Abagrotis nefascia (=crumbi) to which it original referred.