cutworms and dart moths

(Subfamily Noctuinae)

cutworm or dart moth (Subfamily Noctuinae)
Photo by Nancy Falkum

Noctuinae is by far the largest subfamily of noctuids (Family Noctuidae). There are about 1,500 species in 18 or 19 tribes in North America north of Mexico. There are at least 224 species in 16 or 17 tribes in Minnesota.

Adults of many species are called “dart moths,” otherwise more generally as “cutworm or dart moths.” Most are active at night. Larvae are known as cutworms and are also active at night. They feed on the roots and shoots of a variety of plants. They often cut the stem off just above the ground. This is the feature that gives the subfamily one of its common names. Many are considered agricultural pests.


The eyes are smooth, not covered with hairs. There are no eyelashes. On the hindwing the Cu vein appears to have just three branches, M3, CuA1, and CuA2. The fourth vein, the M2, is absent. This character is known as trifine venation. On the fourth segment (tibia) of the middle leg there are always spine-like hairs (setae). On the front and hind legs there are usually also spine-like setae on the tibia. On all legs, these setae are evenly spaced within rows.


Distribution Map



7, 24, 27, 30.



Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)  


Noctuoidea (owlet moths and allies)  


Noctuidae (cutworm moths and allies)  

Subordinate Taxa


Tribe Actinotiini

Tribe Apameini

Tribe Arzamini

Tribe Caradrinini

Tribe Dypterygiini

Tribe Elaphriini

Tribe Episemini (?)

Tribe Eriopygini

Tribe Glottulini

Tribe Hadenini

Tribe Leucaniini

Tribe Noctuini

Tribe Orthosiini

Tribe Phlogophorini

Tribe Phosphilini

Tribe Prodeniini

Tribe Pseudeustrotiini

Tribe Tholerini

Tribe Xylenini (doubtful)






Common Names


cutworms and dart moths (family)

cutworms (larvae)

cutworm moths or or dart moths (adults)












A stiff, hair-like process on the outer surface of an organism. In Lepidoptera: A usually rigid bristle- or hair-like outgrowth used to sense touch. In mosses: The stalk supporting a spore-bearing capsule and supplying it with nutrients. Plural: setae. Adjective: setose.



The fourth segment of an insect leg, after the femur and before the tarsus (foot). The fifth segment of a spider leg or palp.






Visitor Photos

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Nancy Falkum

    cutworm or dart moth (Subfamily Noctuinae)      





Owlet Moths: Cutworm or Dart Moths
Seth Ausubel
  Owlet Moths: Cutworm or Dart Moths  





Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Noctuinae caterpillar on the move
Felix Flax

Mar 25, 2021

  Assortment of Different Insects #1

May 28, 2013

The two larvae in the video are from the Subfamily Noctuinae (Cutworm or Dart Moths).

Thanks to SibVlog for the identification for the first species! Shield-Backed Cutworm (Sunira bicolorago)




Visitor Sightings

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  Nancy Falkum

Location: Kellogg Weaver Dunes SNA, Weaver Dunes Unit

cutworm or dart moth (Subfamily Noctuinae)







Created: 11/26/2021

Last Updated:

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