Moths of North Carolina
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46 NC Records

Chytonix sensilis Grote, 1881 - Barrens Marvel

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Superfamily: Noctuoidea Family: NoctuidaeSubfamily: NoctuinaeTribe: ElaphriiniP3 Number: 932249.00 MONA Number: 9557.00
Comments: The genus Chytonix nominally contains some 30+ species from India, China, Japan and the Americas. Most belong in other genera, however, particularly the neotropical species. Our fauna is limited to three species of which two occur in North Carolina and all may form a single genus. An apparently undescribed species akin to C. sensilis -- identified with barcoding -- occurs in October and November in central Florida.
Species Status: A specimen from North Carolina has been barcoded and is similar to those from elsewhere in the species' range. Sensilis was formerly considered distinct from ruperti (e.g., see Forbes, 1954) but Lafontaine and Schimdt (2011) now treat it as a synonym of sensilis.
Field Guide Descriptions: Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Grote (1881); Forbes (1954)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Wagner et al. (2011)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: A medium-sized, gray and reddish-brown Noctuid, usually with a median dash in the fold connecting the antemedian and postmedian lines and ending with a white point or streak. The antemedian and postmedian are both single, black, and strongly marked; the orbicular and reniform spots are both large and grayish. Sensilis is very similar in size, color, and pattern to Chytonix palliatricula, especially the form (iaspis) that lacks the large median patch of white. Grote (1881) noted a difference between the two species in the postmedian line: in sensilis, there is a slight indentation opposite the cell and the lower portion of this line is fairly straight and meets the inner margin at a right angle; in palliatricula, the postmedian is more excurved opposite the cell and the lower portion is somewhat waved and runs obliquely inward, meeting the inner margin at an acute angle. Forbes (1954) further added that the antemedian is more excurved in sensilis and usually touches the orbicular, whereas it is usually straighter and more oblique in palliatricula, often with a gap separating it from the orbicular. The ground color of the forewings are generally more reddish in sensilis, especially in the subterminal area (Grote, 1881).
Wingspan: 25-32 mm (Forbes, 1954)
Adult Structural Features: According to Forbes (1954), the antennae in male sensilis have broad, triangular, ventral extensions that are absent in palliatricula. In the male, the uncus is narrow and slightly curved whereas in C. palliatricula it is arrowhead-shaped. In the female of C. sensilis, the four longitudinal signa present in the bursa of C. palliatricula are absent or barely present.
Structural photos
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: According to Wagner et al. (2011), larvae are gray with small pale spots, including somewhat larger subdorsal spot on A1. A broken mid-dorsal series of spots also occurs on segments A3-A7. The head is small, is marked with two black transverse bands, and has fairly long, white antennae. The larvae of both species of Chytonix appear to be very similar and currently need to be reared to adulthood to determine their identity.
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable only through rearing to adulthood.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: The vast majority of our records come from the southern half of the Coastal Plain, including the Fall-line Sandhills. We also have three records from the Piedmont and one from the Blue Ridge.
County Map: Clicking on a county returns the records for the species in that county.
Flight Dates:
 High Mountains (HM) ≥ 4,000 ft.
 Low Mountains (LM) < 4,000 ft.
 Piedmont (Pd)
 Coastal Plain (CP)

Click on graph to enlarge
Flight Comments: Appears to be univoltine; all of our records come from mid August to early October. Presumably there is a reason this species has a single flight period late in the season but it has not been elucidated. The undescribed species from central Florida, which is very similar in pattern, has a similar flight period and is probably a Pleitocene relict.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: The majority of our records -- including all of those from the Coastal Plain -- come from Longleaf-Pine dominated habitats, including wet savannas, flatwoods, and sandhill seeps a well as dry to xeric sandhills. One of the records from the western Piedmont comes from dry oak-pine forests on a monadnock. The habitats at the other sites in the Piedmont and the one in the Blue Ridge were not recorded.
Larval Host Plants: According to Wagner et al. (2011), the larvae of Chytonix feed on fungi. McCabe (1995) reported that sensilis feeds on a fungus that grows luxuriously on fire-blackened tree trunks. Interestingly, no caterpillars of this common species have been located in the wild though they should be easy to find perhaps by gathering mushrooms after the flight period, bagging them and looking for frass. However, keep in mind that we do not know whether or not they develop after the adult flight period or overwinter and emerge in the spring.
Observation Methods: Appears to come well to blacklights. We also have one record from bait.
See also Habitat Account for General Dry-Xeric Glades and Barrens
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status: W3
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G4 S3S4
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: This species is considered to be a barrens specialist in the Northeast (McCabe, 1995; Wagner et al., 2003), which is consistent with the vast majority of our records. If as speculated by McCabe that it feeds on a fire-dependent fungus, then it could be declining as a result of the widespread suppression of wild fires. However, we have at least one record from an area in the Piedmont where neither wild fires or prescribed burns are frequent, suggesting that there may be other habitat factors of importance. Until more surveys have been conducted for this species -- which has a very narrow flight period -- in the Piedmont and Blue Ridge, an accurate assessment of its conservation status in North Carolina cannot be made.

 Photo Gallery for Chytonix sensilis - Barrens Marvel

Photos: 7

Recorded by: Stephen Hall, Bo Sullivan, Jim Petranka, and Becky Elkin on 2022-09-26
Moore Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka, Becky Elkin, Steve Hall, and Bo Sullivan. on 2022-09-26
Moore Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka, Becky Elkin, Steve Hall, and Bo Sullivan. on 2022-09-26
Moore Co.
Recorded by: Robert Gilson on 2015-09-16
Mecklenburg Co.
Recorded by: B. Bockhahn, P. Scharf on 2014-09-17
Vance Co.
Recorded by: Darryl Willis on 2013-09-26
Cabarrus Co.
Recorded by: ASH on 2007-08-16
Moore Co.