Scribbled Sallow Moth

Sympistis perscripta (Guenée, 1852)

Lepipolys perscripta
Jim Vargo

Insecta (Insects)
Noctuidae (Owlet Moths)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Apparently Secure globally - Uncommon in the world but not rare; usually widespread, but may be rare in some parts of its range; possibly some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors.


Did you know?

The larvae (caterpillars) of this species accumulate iridoid glycosides in their tissues, ingested from the host plants on which they feed. They are not harmed by these compounds, but these compounds make them bitter and potentially toxic to predators. Their bright black, yellow, and white coloration warns potential predators that they may be dangerous to eat (Boros et al. 1991).

State Ranking Justification

Historically, the species is reported from Long Island. Its distribution is probably confined to Long Island and nearby offshore islands. Currently, one population is documented in Suffolk County. Additional surveys are needed to better understand the status and distribution of this species in New York State.

Short-term Trends

The short-term trend for the species in New York State is unknown. In recent decades, one individual was captured in 1997, but the site was not surveyed since.

Long-term Trends

The long-term trend for the species in New York State is unknown. Forbes (1954) reports an individual captured on Long Island. In recent decades, an individual was captured on Robins Island in 1997.

Conservation and Management


The threats to the species in New York State are uncertain. The most significant threats are probably elimination and fragmentation of habitat by commercial and residential development, even though sometimes larvae are reported from small patches of the larval foodplant, old-field toadflax (Linaria canadensis) (Wagner et al. 2008). In general, anything that kills or stunts Linaria canadensis is a threat.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Minimizing lighting to maintain dark sky conditions would be beneficial.

Research Needs

Research on the species' life history (particularly the timing of its larval stage, pupal stage, and flight season in New York State and other states throughout its range) is needed.



The species occurs in dry, often sandy, sparsely vegetated, grassy areas that contain the larval foodplant, old-field toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis). These areas can include sandplains, dunes, rock outcrops, waste lots, and other dry habitats. In New York State, the species was documented in an area consisting of beaches and bluffs.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Maritime beach* (guide)
    A community with extremely sparse vegetation that occurs on unstable sand, gravel, or cobble ocean shores above mean high tide, where the shore is modified by storm waves and wind erosion.
  • Maritime bluff* (guide)
    A sparsely vegetated community that occurs on vertical exposures of unconsolidated material, such as small stone, gravel, sand, and clay, that is exposed to maritime forces, such as water, ice, or wind.

* probable association but not confirmed.


New York State Distribution

The species is probably confined to Long Island and nearby offshore islands (Schweitzer 1998).

Global Distribution

The species is distributed from southern Maine to Florida, west through Minnesota, Colorado, and Arizona to California. It is absent from many states in between, including Ohio (Wagner et al. 2008).

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

The species is mostly gray. The forewing is dark gray with well-defined black lines and black-outlined spots. The heaviest mark is the zigzag antemedial line. The postmedial line is double and wavy. The claviform spot is elliptical and larger than the round orbicular spot. The reniform spot is shaped like a crescent or is slightly curved. The wing veins are more visible beyond the postmedial line. The hind wing is dark gray and slightly lighter towards the base. The wingspan is approximately 30-33 mm. The brightly colored larva (caterpillar) is black, yellow, and white. The back is black, with uneven spots down the middle outlined in white. On each side, there is a wide white stripe around the spiracles (breathing holes) that includes large, uneven, yellow spots and blackened pinacula. The hardened plate known as the prothoracic shield is white with four distinct black spots. The head is gray-white with a sprinkling of black spots. Larvae grow to approximately 3 cm (Wagner et al. 2008).


The species is documented to have one annual generation in Connecticut, but some evidence of a partial second generation also has been documented. Additional research on the life history of the species is needed. The pupa spends the winter underground in a large cocoon (Wagner et al. 2008).


Larval foodplants include species in the genera Antirrhinum, Linaria, and Nuttallanthus (Powell and Opler 2009). In the Northeast, larvae feed on flowers and seeds (not leaves) of toadflax, especially old-toadflax (Linaria canadensis) (Wagner et al. 2008).

Best Time to See

The best times to see the species are during its last larval stage (thought to be June-July in New York State) or flight season (apparently July-August in New York State) (Wagner et al. 2008).

  • Present
  • Reproducing
  • Larvae present and active

The time of year you would expect to find Scribbled Sallow Moth present, reproducing, and larvae present and active in New York.

Scribbled Sallow Moth Images


Scribbled Sallow Moth
Sympistis perscripta (Guenée, 1852)

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Arthropoda (Mandibulates)
      • Class Insecta (Insects)
        • Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies, Skippers, and Moths)
          • Family Noctuidae (Owlet Moths)

Comments on the Classification

The species seems to have been also referred to as Oncocnemis perscripta (Forbes 1954).

Additional Resources


Boros, Christie A., Frank R. Stermitz, and Noel McFarland. 1991. Processing of iridoid glycoside antirrinoside from Maurandya antirrhiniflora (Scrophulariaceae) by Meris paradoxa (Geometridae) and Lepipolys species (Noctuidae). Journal of Chemical Ecology 17(6):1123-1133.

Forbes, William T. M. 1954. Lepidoptera of New York and neighboring states part III. Cornell University Experiment Station Memoir 329.

NatureServe. 2010. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available (Data last updated August 2010)

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

North American Moth Photographers Group at the Mississippi Entomological Museum. No date. Mississippi State University, Mississippi.

Opler, Paul A., Kelly Lotts, and Thomas Naberhaus, coordinators. 2010. Butterflies and Moths of North America. Bozeman, MT: Big Sky Institute. <> (accessed May 2010).

Powell, J. A. and P. A. Opler. 2009. Moths of Western North America. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. 369 pp.

Schweitzer, Dale F. 1998. Rare, potentially rare, and historic macrolepidoptera for Long Island, New York: A suggested inventory list.

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


About This Guide

This guide was authored by: Andrea Chaloux

Information for this guide was last updated on: February 9, 2012

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. Online Conservation Guide for Sympistis perscripta. Available from: Accessed December 5, 2023.