Aseptis characta (Grote, 1880),

Mustelin, Tomas & Crabo, Lars G., 2015, Revision of the genus Aseptis McDunnough (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae, Noctuinae, Xylenini) with a description of two new genera, Paraseptis and Viridiseptis, ZooKeys 527, pp. 57-102: 78-79

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Aseptis characta (Grote, 1880)


Taxon classification Animalia Lepidoptera Noctuidae

Aseptis characta (Grote, 1880)  Figs 47-52, 73, 89

Hadena characta  Grote, 1880: 243.

Hadena luteocinerea  Smith, 1900: 468.

Hadena erica  Smith, 1905: 258.

Hadena pluraloides  McDunnough, 1922: 237.

Type material.

Hadena characta  : Holotype female [BMNH, photograph examined]. Type locality: Nevada. Hadena luteocinerea  : Holotype male [ USNM, examined]. Type Locality: Montana. Hadena erica  : Lectotype male designated by Todd (1982) [ AMNH, examined]. Type Locality: Stockton, Utah. Hadena pluraloides  : Holotype female [ CNC, examined]. Type Locality: Lethbridge, Alberta.


This is a narrow-winged smaller Aseptis  , wingspan 32.0 ± 1.2 mm (n=25; range 29.5-35 mm), with complete forewing pattern of typical lines and spots. The forewing is ash gray to pale tan, often darker gray in the medial area and with variable olive-gray, tan, or orange-tan patches. The basal, antemedial and postmedial lines are double, dark gray filled with pale gray. The postmedial area is lighter with a shade preceding the pale subterminal line and a number of black wedges between the veins, The three spots are outlined in black and are filled with the ground color and, except the claviform spot, peripheral lighter gray scales. The hindwing is gray, pale gray, or white with dark discal spot, veins, and terminal line, darker in females.

Aseptis characta  is geographically variable, appearing slightly different in each region. In extreme southern California it is relatively smooth gray with a white hindwing (Fig. 47), becoming more powdery with a gray hindwing in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties and more mottled in the Sierra Nevada. In the Pacific Northwest it is usually darker gray with variable subtle olive or brown shades on the forewing and a fuscous hindwing (Figs 49 and 51), although populations from the Blue Mountains of Washington and Oregon resemble those from the Sierra Nevada. On the Great Plains Aseptis characta  is lighter, often pale tan with a warm orange cast (Fig. 50).

The male valve is strap-like with a slight S-shape, with a very weak sacculus, slightly expanded cucullus with a rounded apex, rod-like straight ampulla oriented parallel to the costa, and no digitus. The vesica is similar to that of Aseptis binotata  but has one or two additional spine-like cornuti on its mid-portion. The female has a papilla analis covered densely with short needle-like setae and sparse basal hairs, a rounded corpus bursae lacking signa, and a short appendix bursae that barely changes the outline of the bursa.

Aseptis characta  can be identified by its small size, mottled gray forewing, and complete pattern of lines and spots. The male is the only Aseptis  with two or three slender cornuti on the vesica and the female is the only one with an immaculate corpus bursae and weak appendix bursae. This species is similar to several species of Lacinipolia  McDunnough in the Eriopygini  , especially Lacinipolia pensilis  (Grote), and is often intermixed with them in collections. They can be distinguished by the hindwing notch of Aseptis  and minute hairs on the eyes of Lacinopolia  .

Distribution and biology.

Aseptis characta  is widespread in western North America in the western Great Plains, Great Basin, and Pacific regions from British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan to Colorado, Utah, northern Arizona and southern California. It does not occur on the immediate Pacific Coast north of central California. It flies in dry habitats like sagebrush steppe, juniper woodlands, and open forest from sea level to 2500 m and is often common. In southern California it is most often found on the dry side of the mountain ranges, in the mountain-desert transition zone, and in the deserts. Emergence is earliest in xeric habitats, usually April in California and mid-May in the Pacific Northwest. The flight lasts until July to August depending on locality. The striped gray-green and white larva has been found feeding on Artemisia  spp. ( Asteraceae  ) ( Comstock 1955, Crumb 1956).


Similarities between the male genitalia of this species and Aseptis fumosa  are noted under the latter species. The female corpus bursae lacking signa and shallow appendix bursae of Aseptis characta  are unique.

Given the geographic variability of Aseptis characta  it is almost surprising that not more names have been given to the various forms. Hadena erica  Smith was based on specimens from Utah which are bluish ash gray with patches of paler gray and an ochreous tinge on the basal and distal wing similar to Fig. 48. The light orange-tan Great Plains populations were described twice, as Hadena luteocinerea  Smith from Montana and Hadena pluraloides  McDunnough from Alberta; both are similar to Fig. 50. The latter name denotes the resemblance to Euxoa pluralis  (Grote). Aseptis characta  has a nearly continuous distribution within its range and the different forms are not well enough separated to warrant the use of subspecies.

In contrast to the variation in habitus of this species, the genitalia are uniform. Similarly, the variation of CO1 barcode sequences is small despite a large number of samples (n=67) from throughout its distribution. Multiple slightly different haplotypes cluster within a total range of less than 1%.