greater black-letter dart

(Xestia dolosa)

greater black-letter dart
Photo by Bill Reynolds
  Hodges #

10942.1

 
 
Conservation Status
  IUCN Red List

not listed

     
  NatureServe

NNR - Unranked

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
 
Description
 
 

Greater black-letter dart is a common, medium-sized moth. Adults are ¾ to 13 16 (20 mm to 21 mm) in length, with a wingspan of 19 16.

The forewing is long and moderately narrow. On the male it is reddish-brown, on the female it is bluish-gray. The base of the wing on both sexes is purplish-gray. The line separating the basal area and median area (antemedial line) is scalloped. There is a large, triangular, straw-colored spot in the inner median area (orbicular spot) that widens toward the leading edge of the wing. There are also conspicuous dark spots, including a black basal dash, a median bar, and a subapical patch. The terminal area of the wing is noticeably darker on males, much less so on females. The kidney-shaped spot in the outer median area (reniform spot) is burnt orange to purplish-gray with a thin black outline.

The hindwing on the male is whitish-gray at the base, becoming darker gray as it approaches the margin, with slightly darker veins. The hindwing of the female is similar but darker.

The head and thorax are same color as the forewing. The thin line on the thorax just behind the head (collar) is pale brownish-yellow. The antennae are slender and thread-like.

The caterpillars are smooth and about 1½ in length. They are usually brown but are sometimes green or gray. Three stripes on the upper (dorsal) side of the abdomen (the middorsal and subdorsal stripes) are thin and inconspicuous. On gray and brown caterpillars there are usually dark slanting spots on each abdominal segment in the subdorsal area. A pale horizontal stripe (subspiracular stripe) on each side of the abdomen dips below the breathing opening (spiracle) on the eighth abdominal segment (A8) and continues onto the leg-like appendage (proleg) on A10. The spiracles are white to tan with a thin black outline. The ground color of the abdomen is darker above the subspiracular stripe, paler below. Each proleg has a number of minute hooklets (crochets) that allow the caterpillar to hold onto vegetation. The proleg on A3 has about 25 crochets. A dark bar on each side of the head runs over the top of the head (vertex) and continues to the to the side of the triangle (frons).

 
     
 

Size

 
 

Total Length: ¾ to 13 16

Wingspan: 19 16

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
  Setaceous Hebrew character (Xestia c-nigrum) is smaller, to ¾ (15 mm to 19 mm). The antemedial line is straight. The caterpillar is virtually inseparable and is best reared to adulthood for identification.  
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Forests and woodlands

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Season

 
 

Two generations, May to September

 
     
 

Behavior

 
 

The caterpillars burrow into the ground where they spend the day. They come out at night to feed on vegetation within a meter of the ground.

 
     
 

Life Cycle

 
 

They overwinter as late stage (instar) larvae.

 
     
 

Larva Hosts

 
 

Grasses, forbs, and low-growing woody plants; and apple, maple, currant, and pear. Possibly also agricultural crops, including barley, clover, corn, and tobacco.

 
     
 

Adult Food

 
 

Flower nectar

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

21, 24, 27, 29, 30, 71, 75.

 
  9/23/2017      
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Common

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
 

Order

Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)  
 

Suborder

Glossata  
 

Infraorder

Neolepidoptera  
  Parvorder Heteroneura  
  No Rank Ditrysia  
  No Rank Obtectomera  
 

Superfamily

Noctuoidea (noctuid moths)  
 

Family

Noctuidae (owlet moths)  
 

Subfamily

Noctuinae (cutworms or dart moths)  
 

Tribe

Noctuini  
  Subtribe Noctuina  
 

Genus

Xestia  
       
 

In 1980, setaceous Hebrew character (Xestia c-nigrum) was separated from greater black-letter dart (Xestia dolosa). Before that, they were considered one species. In 1998, J. Donald Lafontaine suggested that the two species are ecologically separated, with X. dolosa inhabiting moderately moist (mesic) woodlands, and X. c-nigrum inhabiting disturbed and grassy landscapes, agricultural crops, fields, and gardens. According to Lafontaine, only X. c-nigrum is an agricultural pest.

 
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

 

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

greater black-letter dart

greater black-lettered dart

spotted cutworm

woodland spotted cutworm

 
       

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Antemedial (AM) line

A thin line separating the basal area and the median area of the forewing of Lepidoptera.

 

Collar

In grasses: The area on the back of a grass leaf at the junction of the sheath and the blade. In moths: the array of scales on the dorsal part of the prothorax.

 

Frons

The upper part of an insect’s face, roughly corresponding to the forehead.

 

Instar

The developmental stage of arthropods between each molt; in insects, the developmental stage of the larvae or nymph.

 

Orbicular spot

A circular spot or outline in the outer median area near the antemedial line on the forewing of many moths.

 

Proleg

A fleshy structure on the abdomen of some insect larvae that functions as a leg, but lacks the five segments of a true insect leg.

 

Reniform spot

A kidney-shaped spot or outline in the outer median area near the postmedial line on the forewing of many moths.

 

Spiracle

A small opening on the surface of an insect through which the insect breathes.

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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Bill Reynolds

 
    greater black-letter dart   greater black-letter dart  
           
 
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Other Videos
 
  Greater Black-letter Dart Moth (Noctuidae: Xestia dolosa) Lateral View
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Published on Sep 23, 2011

Photographed at the Turtle River State Park, North Dakota (23 September 2011).

 
  Greater Black-letter Dart Moth (Noctuidae: Xestia dolosa) Dorsal View
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Published on Aug 16, 2011

Photographed at the Turtle River State Park, North Dakota (16 August 2011).

 
  Xestia c-nigrum/dolosa 09-11-16
wapogipofrog88
 
   
 
About

Published on Sep 12, 2016

 
       

 

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  Bill Reynolds
9/19/2017

Location: Pennington Co MN

greater black-letter dart  
           
 
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