As a defense strategy, caterpillars of many cutworms and darts (species in the subfamily Noctuinae), such as the violet dart, often curl into a "C" and fall to the ground when they are disturbed. Since most species in this subfamily eat a variety of plants, it is usually easy for the caterpillars to find another plant on which to feed afterwards (Wagner et al. 2008).
Six populations of the violet dart have been documented in New York State since 1987. The species occurs in sandy coastal habitats in the East (Covell 1984). In New York State, it is likely restricted to Long Island. Additional surveys are needed to better understand its status and distribution.
The short-term trend for the violet dart seems to be stable. At the two populations surveyed in multiple years, moths were captured in all survey years, indicating the populations are viable and reproducing. The other four documented populations have been surveyed only once.
The long-term trend for the violet dart is unknown. There is a historical record of the moth from Long Island in 1900 (Buckett 1966). However, its distribution and status in historic times compared to the present is unknown.
Elimination and fragmentation of habitat by commercial and residential development are threats to the violet dart. In addition, fire suppression and allowing succession may eliminate some suitable habitat for the species.
At many sites, maintenance of occupied habitat is the only management recommendation. Periodic controlled burns or mechanical management are needed to maintain some of the natural communities in which the Violet Dart occurs. Since the Violet Dart might be impacted by extensive fires, it would be beneficial to leave some areas unburned to serve as refugia. In addition, restricting ATV use and minimizing lighting to maintain dark sky conditions in occupied areas would be beneficial.
Additional research is needed to document the violet dart's host (larval food) plants and its life history.
The violet dart inhabits sandy, grassy, coastal habitats (Covell 1984; NatureServe Explorer 2010). In New York State, it has been found in several habitats including maritime grasslands, maritime dunes, maritime heathlands, dwarf pine plains, and pitch pine-oak-heath woodlands. It seems to be found particularly in openings in pitch pine coastal barrens and pitch pine scrub oak habitats.
The violet dart is documented from Long Island.
The violet dart occurs in coastal habitats from Massachusetts to North Carolina (Covell 1984).
The violet dart is a purplish-gray moth. The forewings are purplish gray with a wide, reddish postmedial stripe. The antemedial and postmedial lines are even, stand out, and have a dark edge. The orbicular spot is pale brown. The reniform spot is a light-colored loop with a grayish-brown center. The hind wings are a light yellowish color with grayish-brown shading toward the outer edges. The wingspan is 35-40 mm (Covell 1984). Larvae are hardy and smooth (Wagner et al. 2008).
The adult is the best life stage for identification.
The life history of the violet dart is poorly known. The species has one brood each year. Larvae (caterpillars) tunnel underground during the day. Pupation occurs in a chamber underground (Wagner et al. 2008).
The larval foodplants are unknown, but it is thought that the larvae feed on grasses or herbs (NatureServe 2010).
The best time to see the violet dart is during its flight season. In New York State, it has been captured flying from late September until mid-October.
The time of year you would expect to find Violet Dart present and reproducing in New York.
Euxoa violaris (Grote and Robinson, 1868)
Buckett, J.S. 1966. The little known moth Euxoa sculptilis (Harvey) in Arizona, with descriptions, illustrations, and notes on Euxoa violaris (Grote and Robinson) (Noctuidae-Agrotiinae). Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 5(4):255-261.
Covell, Charles V. 1984. A field guide to the moths of eastern North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.
NatureServe. 2010. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available http://www.natureserve.org/explorer. (Data last updated August 2010)
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.
North American Moth Photographers Group at the Mississippi Entomological Museum. No date. Mississippi State University, Mississippi. http://mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu/MainMenu.shtml
Opler, Paul A., Kelly Lotts, and Thomas Naberhaus, coordinators. 2010. Butterflies and Moths of North America. Bozeman, MT: Big Sky Institute. <http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/> (accessed May 2010).
Wagner, D. L., D. F. Schweitzer, J. B. Sullivan, and R. C. Reardon. 2008. Owlet Caterpillars of Eastern North America (Lepidoptera: Noctudiae)
This guide was authored by: Andrea Chaloux
Information for this guide was last updated on: February 10, 2012
Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. Online Conservation Guide for Euxoa violaris. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/violet-dart/. Accessed July 21, 2019.