Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFErebidae Members: 54 NC Records

Amolita fessa Grote, 1874 - Feeble Grass Moth


Taxonomy
Superfamily: Noctuoidea Family: ErebidaeSubfamily: ErebinaeTribe: OphiusiniP3 Number: 931060.00 MONA Number: 9818.00
Comments: The genus Amolita is currently placed in the Erebidae in the tribe Ophiusini together with such dissimilar genera as Zale, Ophisma and Metria. Previously it was thought to be near Metalectra and it likely will be moved again. The genus consists of 12 described species from the New World, five are known from the U.S. and three are found in North Carolina. However, the uncertainty surrounding the generic placement descends to the species level as well, since many of our species appear to be complexes of multiple species.
Species Status: At present there is great uncertainty with regard to the complexes under the name fessa and to the differences between fessa and obliqua. Unfortunately, specimens from North Carolina have not been barcoded to date. Specimens from Florida to Ontario have been barcoded and segregate into three clusters which likely represent 2-3 distinct species. The ranges of the clusters are limited to one from Ontario, one from Florida and one from Alabama and Illinois. We have no idea which or how many of these occur in North Carolina. Montane specimens are much larger and more brightly marked than those in the Coastal Plain. Both forms and broods need to be barcoded.
Identification
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984); Beadle and Leckie (2012)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1954)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Wagner et al. (2011)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: Amolita fessa is a medium-small, pale Erebid marked with two longitudinal dark lines. The ground color is pale whitish (clay color) or tan, dusted with fuscous. A prominent, dark fuscous line runs from the base out to the cell, where it bends upwards to the apex. A second, outer dark shade also curves up to the apex, beginning near the inner margin. Transverse lines are absent and the orbicular and reniform spots are represented by dark dots. The hindwings are paler than the forewings but dusted with pale brown along the veins (Forbes, 1954). Amolita obliqua is similar in size, color, and ground color but there are two parallel lines in the outer portion of the wing that run diagonally from the apex and outer margin down past the center of the wing, past or through a more weakly defined line running out from the base. These lines are often shaded with reddish or yellowish in obliqua but are usually fuscous in fessa (Smith, 1904). These features can vary however, and may be misleading; dissections are often needed to confirm the identity of a specimen.
Wingspan: 25-28 mm (Forbes, 1954)
Adult Structural Features: Males of both fessa and obliqua have pectinate antennae but the pectinations are narrower in fessa. The uncus is spatulate and apically bifid in fessa, rather than medially expanded as in A. obliqua, and the tip of the valve is quite different in the two species. A. fessa may be represented by more than one species in our state but we have no idea if this is true or if they will differ significantly in valve tip shape. The female genitalia of A. fessa and A. obliqua are radically different as seen in the illustrations. In spite of their similarity in pattern, the two species do not appear to be sister species.
Structural photos
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from photos showing hindwings, abdomen, or other specialized views [e.g., frons, palps, antennae, undersides].
Immatures and Development: A larva is illustrated but not described in detail by Wagner et al. (2011). It is relatively slender, grayish brown, and with a whitish spiracular stripe. Only two pairs of prolegs exist. A larva of obliqua described by Forbes (1954) is described as having a more conspicuous set of stripes, but the differences between the two species (or within the complexes) are unclear.
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable only through rearing to adulthood.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Probably occurs state wide, at least as a complex, from the Barrier Island to the High Mountains
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: The species appears to be double brooded in the Coastal Plain and lower Piedmont but single brooded in the mountains.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: All of the sites where habitats have been recorded in North Carolina are wetlands. These include maritime, tidal, and riverine swamps; wet pine savannas; mountain bog and fens; and the shorelines of shallow impoundments, including beaver ponds, old millponds, borrow pits, and reservoirs. We do not, however, have any records from peatland habitats.
Larval Host Plants: Appears to be specialized on wetland graminoids. Grasses are cited as foodplants (e.g., Forbes, 1954), but we suspect this reflects what captive larvae will eat when given incorrect choices. Although the literature states that the caterpillars feed on grasses and thus should be distributed throughout open area habitats, in reality we find the species tightly associated with wetland areas as are all of our Amolita species. These areas are usually somewhat open to very open and with sedges. To our knowledge the only larvae of any of our Amolita species that have been found in the wild were on sedges (Carex).
Observation Methods: Adults readily come to light and can be flushed from wet savannas and other sedge-filled sites during the day.
Wikipedia
See also Habitat Account for General Sedge, Grass, and Rush Mires
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G5 S5
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: Amolita fessa, as a complex at least, is somewhat specialized in terms of habitats but the habitats themselves are fairly widespread. If it turns out that there are actually several different species in this complex, each with a narrower range and specialized on different host plants and habitats, the conservation status of each one will need to be re-assessed.

 Photo Gallery for Amolita fessa - Feeble Grass Moth

Photos: 5

Recorded by: L. M. Carlson on 2019-08-08
Orange Co.
Comment:
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2019-06-29
Madison Co.
Comment:
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2019-06-29
Madison Co.
Comment:
Recorded by: Darryl Willis on 2013-08-18
Cabarrus Co.
Comment:
Recorded by: Darryl Willis on 2013-08-18
Cabarrus Co.
Comment: Common