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Zookeys. 2017 Mar 14;(661):61-89. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.661.10867. eCollection 2017.

Two psammophilic noctuids newly associated with beach plum, Prunus maritima (Rosaceae): The Dune Noctuid (Sympistis riparia) and Coastal Heathland Cutworm (Abagrotis benjamini) in Northeastern North America (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae).

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Research Entomologist, Systematic Entomology Laboratory, USDA, National Museum of Natural History, E-502, P.O. Box 37012, MRC 168, Washington, DC 20013-7012.
Invertebrate Zoologist, Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.


Beach plum, Prunus maritima Marshall, 1785 not Wangenh., 1787 (Rosaceae), currently under development as a potential crop, represents an under-acknowledged host plant for several Lepidoptera that have undergone declines in the northeastern USA. The Coastal Heathland Cutworm, Abagrotis nefascia (Smith, 1908), and the Dune Noctuid, Sympistis riparia (Morrison, 1875), are unrelated species of psammophilic noctuines (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) regularly encountered on a localized basis in coastal southern New England and New York, and whose precise life history requirements are undocumented. We inferred and, based on field observation and rearing, corroborated beach plum as a larval host for these species in Massachusetts; the plant's role in sustaining other moths with limited or contracting regional distributions is discussed. Sympistis riparia, belonging to a widely distributed complex of closely related species, has been associated specifically with both maritime and freshwater dunes. The eastern populations of Abagrotis nefascia represent a conspicuous range disjunction, separated from the nearest western populations by more than 2000 miles, and originally described by Franclemont as race benjamini of Abagrotis crumbi, both later synonymized with Abagrotis nefascia. Following examination of types and other material, an evaluation of putatively diagnostic features from both the original description and our own observations, genitalic characters, and the results of provisional barcode analyses, Abagrotis benjamini Franclemont, stat. rev., is elevated to the rank of a valid species rather than representing eastern populations of Abagrotis nefascia (=crumbi) to which it originally referred.


Abagrotis; Prunus maritima, Noctuidae; Sympistis; beach plum; psammophile

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