The length of the forewings is 4.7-6.4 mm. The ground color of the forewings is dark brown; with a distinct white line. The ground color of the hindwings is dark brown, but the costal area is paler. Subspecies aridicola has a darker ground color owing to a reduction of the whitish overscaling, especially on the costal half. Adults are on wing from March to mid-May.
The larvae feed on Phacelia distans. Subspecies aridicola only feeds on Phacelia distans var. australis.
- Ethmia brevistriga brevistriga (along the immediate coastal strand in central California)
- Ethmia brevistriga aridicola Powell, 1973 (inland California)
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