Plants and Animals

Euxoa aurulenta Dune cutworm

species photo

Key Characteristics

This moth has a wingspan from 1.4-1.6 inches (35.3-39.3 mm). The forewing of most individuals is light fawn, often heavily irrorate with white or pale gray. There is a chocolate-brown color phase as well. Hind wing varying from pure creamy-white to uniform medium smoky-brown; hind wing most frequently white suffused with brown and often with a brown outer-marginal band with a white fringe. Underside of forewing white, often suffused with brown. Underside of hind wing usually paler than forewing. Because there are many similar looking moths within the genus Euxoa and Agrotis, a voucher specimen(s) needs to be collected for this species for positive identification.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: S2S3 - Rank is uncertain, ranging from imperiled to vulnerable


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Berrien 4 1967
Charlevoix 1 1935
Chippewa 1 1913
Muskegon 1 1989
Oceana 1 1992
Ottawa 1 1959

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 Dune cutworm is reported occurring in disjunct populations in sandy areas throughout North America. No other information on specific habitat requirements is in the literature. The Michigan locations are all sparsely vegetated, high quality coastal dune habitats. It is speculated that this species feeds on dune grass. In Michigan, specimens have been collected in close proximity to the beach grasses (Ammophila breviligulata and Calmovilfa longifolia).

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

Unfortunately, significant parts of the high-quality dunes habitat have been degraded or destroyed by shoreline home and recreational development. The known remaining sites need to be protected as well as high-quality sand dune habitats. Until we know more about its habitat affinities and more on the species biology, life history, and ecology, we cannot make any specific management recommendations.

Active Period

Flight from first week of May to fourth week of July

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 first week of May to fourth week of July

Time of Day: Evening

Time of Day: Night


Survey References

  • 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

  • Cuthrell, D.L. 1999. Special Animal Abstract for Euxoa aurulenta (Dune cutworm). Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Lansing, MI. 2pp.
  • Hardwick, D.F. 1970. The Genus Euxoa (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) in North America. I. Subgenera Orosagrotis, Longivesica, Chorizagrotis, Pleonectopoda, and Crassivesica. Memoirs of the Entomological Society of Canada 67:177pp.

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