Plants and Animals

Sympistis perscripta Scribbled sallow moth

Key Characteristics

The scribbled sallow moth is a relatively small moth with a wingspan of about  3.3 to 3.6 cm. The moth is powdery gray throughout with distinct black/brown antemedial and postmedial lines that run horizontally across the forewings. The antemedial and postmedial lines are zigzagged and both are expressed as a wavy pattern across the forewings. Distinct black-outlined orbicular and claviform spots mark the forewings. Less pronounced reniform spots vary from circular to semi-circular. A pale fringe occurs on the exterior of the forewing and hindwing (Powell et al. 2009). Larvae are pale to bright purple with distinct black-outlined yellow spots arranged in dorsal rows.

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: SNR - Not ranked


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Allegan 1 1970
Barry 1 1968

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.


This species is widely distributed across North America. It often occurs in dry, sandy, sparsely vegetated but grassy areas such as sand plains, dunes, rock outcrops, waste lots, and other open xeric habitats (Caldwell 2014) where it is a fugitive species of erratic occurrence. As larvae, scribbled sallow moths feed primarily on members of the Scrophulariaceae family, but have also been observed on Snapdragons (Antirrhinum spp.), Toadflax (Linaria spp.), and Foxglove (Nuttallanthus spp.). In Michigan, this species is quite rare and local, associated with the dry sand prairies of Newyago County and a few Great Lakes barrens sites along Lake Michigan.

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

Maintaining the natural habitat of the scribbled sallow moth will promote the long-term viability of populations of this species. Restoration activities that mitigate the effects of habitat fragmentation, recreation use, invasive plants, and fire suppression may be necessary to ensure that populations remain in occupied sites. Potential management activities include removing invasive plants to restore habitat or managing recreational activities (e.g., extensive foot traffic) to minimize soil compaction, erosion, and de-vegetation. Sources of artificial lighting in occupied habitats can attract moths away from natural habitats. Sites where this species is found to be extant should be protected and managed appropriately including maintaining healthy, viable populations of the host plants. Surveys to find additional populations and determine the status, abundance and distribution of this species in the state are needed.

Active Period

Breeding from fourth week of June to first week of September

Survey Methods

The best way to survey for this species is by blacklighting, a technique where 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. This species is difficult to identify in the wild. It is strongly recommended that observations of this species be verified through actual specimen vouchers or verification by a species expert.


Survey Period: From fourth week of June to first week of September

Time of Day: Night
Humidity: Humid
Cloud Cover: Overcast
Wind: No Wind
Survey Method Comment: Survey period based on observations from New York state. Conditions may be more variable in Michigan


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.
  • Wagner, D.L., D.F. Schweitzer, J.B. Sullivan, and R.C. Reardon. 2008. Owlet Caterpillars of Eastern North America (Lepidoptera: Noctudiae).

Technical References

  • Caldwell, J.A., 2014. California Plants as Resources for Lepidoptera: a guide for gardeners, restorationists and naturalists.
  • Lafontaine, J.D., and B.C. Schmidt. 2010. Annotated check list of the Noctuoidea (Insecta, Lepidoptera) of North America north of Mexico. ZooKeys 40: 1-239.
  • NatureServe. 2010. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available
  • North American Moth Photographers Group at the Mississippi Entomological Museum. No date. Mississippi State University, Mississippi.
  • Powell, J.A., and P.A. Opler. 2009. Moths of Western North America. University of California Press. plate 51, fig. 30; p. 286.