Plants and Animals

Sympistis piffardi 3-striped oncocnemis

Key Characteristics

Has an average wingspan of 3.5 cm. The forewings (i.e., upper wings) are gray or light gray with the outer third characterized by shades of dark gray or brownish gray crossed by very fine, horizontal, black lines in the interspaces. The median or center area of the forewings are black and narrowed at the middle. The forewing also has a small black patch extending from the top or costal margin about one-quarter of the way in from the outer margin and apex of the forewing. The hind wing (i.e., lower wing) is white with the outer half black in the male and the outer two-fifths black in the female.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G4 - Apparently secure
State Rank: S2S3 - Rank is uncertain, ranging from imperiled to vulnerable


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Cheboygan 2 1967

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


The Three-striped oncocnemis is found in wetland habitats, and its larval host plant is a shrub, Spiraea sp. This species is associated with interdunal wetlands, northern fens, inland emergent wetlands, ephemeral wetlands, river/stream/riparian corridors and coastal wetlands. Spiraea tomentosa or steeplebush is associated with bogs, tamarack swamps, meadows, sandy-peaty shores and dried lake beds, marshes and borders with ponds (Voss 1985). Spiraea alba or meadowsweet is associated with wet shores, marshes, sedge meadows, tamarack swamps, peatlands, edges of streams, interdunal swales, moist borders of woods and shallow soil over rock, and dry places that are periodically flooded (Voss 1985). Both species occur in southern and northern Michigan and often occur together.

Specific Habitat Needs

Host plant needed in: Emergent marshGreat lakes marshInterdunal wetlandNorthern fenNorthern wet meadow.

Natural Community Types

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management Recommendations

The Three-striped oncocnemis is considered extremely rare and may be critically imperiled in Michigan. Little is known about this species' status, distribution, life history and ecology. As a result, little is known about specific threats to this species. Thus, specific management recommendations for this species can not be provided at this time. In general, surveys are needed to determine this species' current status and distribution in the state. Research to obtain information on this species' life history and ecology and assess threats to its conservation also is warranted. The sites at which this species has been documented should be protected. Adequate and suitable habitat at these sites need to be maintained including sufficient densities of the species' host plants. The wetlands with which this species is associated and the ecological processes needed to maintain these wetlands need to be protected and managed. This might include maintaining natural vegetation, maintaining or restoring hydrologic regimes (e.g., protecting groundwater recharge areas, avoiding or limiting surface water inputs from drainage ditches and agricultural fields), controlling shrub encroachment and/or invasive species, and restoring fire (i.e., prescribed burning) and/or other disturbance regimes.

Active Period

Flight from third week of August to third week of September

Survey Methods

Larvae are present from May to July. In Michigan, adults have been documented from mid-August to mid-September. The best way to survey for this species is by blacklighting at night during the adult flight period, a technique whereby a sheet is stretched across two trees or poles and an ultraviolet light is used to attract moths to the sheet. Moths can be collected directly from the sheet. Insects come to light usually in largest numbers on still, dark, cloudy nights when both temperature and humidity are high. Reports of this species should be documented with a voucher specimen or a good photograph and verification by a species expert.


Survey Period: From third week of August to third week of September

Time of Day: Evening
Humidity: Humid
Cloud Cover: Overcast
Air Temperature: Warm
Wind: No Wind
Survey Method Comment: Ideal survey conditions but surveys can be conducted during other conditions as well.

Time of Day: Night
Humidity: Humid
Cloud Cover: Overcast
Air Temperature: Warm
Wind: No Wind
Survey Method Comment: Ideal survey conditions but surveys can be conducted during other conditions as well.


Survey References

  • Covell, Charles. A Field Guide to the Moths of Eastern North America. Peterson Field Guide Series, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA. 496 pp.
  • Martin, J.E.H. 1977. The Insects and Arachnids of Canada (Part 1): Collecting, preparing, and preserving insects, mites, and spiders. Publication 1643. Biosystematics Research Institute, Ottawa.

Technical References

  • Albert, D.A. 2001. Natural community abstract for Great Lakes marsh. Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Lansing, MI. 11 pp.
  • Forbes, W.T.M. 1954. Lepidoptera of New York and Neighboring States, Noctuidae, Part III. Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, NY. 433 pp.
  • Spieles, J.B., P.J. Comer, D.A. Albert, and M.A. Kost. 1999. Natural community abstract for prairie fen. Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Lansing, MI. 4 pp.
  • Stehr, F. W. 1997. Michigan Lepidoptera Survey Sites and Seasonal Occurrence of Michigan's Listed Species Annual Report 1997. 30 pp.+ MI Lepidoptera Survey Data Collection Form
  • Voss, E. G. 1985. Michigan Flora. Part II. Dicots (Saururaceae-Cornaceae). Bulletin of the Cranbrook Institute of Science and University of Michigan Herbarium. 724pp.