Moth identification: miscellaneous notes

Here I bring together various miscellaneous notes on identifying moths. It is part of a series of posts on moth identification.

Taxonomy in flux

The family-level taxonomy for many Lepidoptera is in turmoil. Many of the subfamilies are readily recognised but their relationships are being reinterpreted. That means that old understanding of the noctuoid families (particularly Noctuidae, Nolidae, Arctiidae and Lymantriidae) is being disrupted, with many subfamilies that were formerly considered part of the Noctuidae now moved into the family Erebidae along with the Arctiidae and Lymantriidae. Similarly the former understanding of the Pyralidae has been revised to reorganise these moths as the Pyralidae and the Crambidae. In general this has not impacted classification below the subfamily level to anything like the same degree. It does however cause confusion and makes it difficult to write clearly about these groups without confusing some readers, particularly since the adoption of these newer taxonomic views is happening at different speeds, and with different opinions, in different parts of the world.

Start with most likely groups

Although there are many families of moths, some families include many more species than others and are likely to make up the majority of those that come to light traps or other artificial lights. It is quite reasonable to start by assuming that a new moth is likely to belong to one of these large groups.

Posted on 16 de fevereiro de 2014, 04:43 PM by dhobern dhobern

Comentários

The most recent comprehensive account of Lepidoptera classification is by van Nieukerken et al (2011), available online at www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2011/f/zt03148p221.pdf
Figures below are from this publication.

There are around 141,000 described moth species in some 120 families globally. Lots to learn and lots still to discover, as it's thought there may be around 150,000 moth species awaiting scientific description or discovery !
The Big Three Superfamilies - these three superfamilies account for about 75% of moth diversity - are:
Pyraloidea (Pyralidae - ~ 6,000 spp - and Crambidae - ~ 9,700 spp.)
Geometroidea (Geometridae - 23,000+ spp; Uraniidae - ~700 spp; Epicopeiidae - 20 spp. & Sematuridae - 40 spp.)
Noctuoidea (Oenosandridae - 8 spp; Notodontidae - 3,800+ spp.; Euteliidae - 520 spp.; Erebidae - ~25,000 spp.; Nolidae - ~1,800 spp. & Noctudae - ~11,700 spp.).

Here are some Hong Kong based notes that will be useful for most of the Old World moth fauna - note that in the New World, some families that are prominent do not occur, or are scarce, in the Old World (and vice-versa).

Major Families in Hong Kong
The most species rich families found in Hong Kong include the following:
"Micromoths" (though many species in the latter families are comparatively large!)
Tineidae; Gracillariidae; Yponomeutidae; Oecophoridae; Gelechiidae; Tortricidae; Pyralidae; Crambidae; Thyrididae; Zygaenidae; Sesiidae.
"Macromoths"
Sphingidae; Saturniidae; Geometridae; Notodontidae; Erebidae (including Arctiinae & Lymantriinae); Nolidae; Noctuidae

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Tineidae
Includes “Clothes Moths”
Adult moths will run rather than fly
Many are detritivores on animal matter; some subfamilies specialize as fungivores.
Small moths, 10 to 20 mm wingspan, mostly dull browns
Rough scales on head of adult; haustellum often degenerate.
~ 3,000 named spp. globally.
Close relatives include the Bagworms (Psychidae)

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Gracillariidae
Leaf Miners (as larvae)
Blotch and blister mines formed by larvae.
Adults with very long antennae, smooth scales on head; small or v. small, wingspan 7 - 20 mm; often very colourful, reds, yellows dominant. Very long hindwing fringes.
Adults rest with front and mid legs pushing front of body up at about 30° from horizontal with tip of abdomen still touching substrate, wings tightly wrapped; antennae twirled prior to settling down.

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Yponomeutidae
Small Ermine Moths
Many species are communial webspinners as larvae.
Very small to fairly small moths, 8 – 25mm w/s; antennae around ½ forewing length.
Some rest with head down and body raised. Proboscis well developed, not scaled at base

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Oecophoridae
A mixed bag – several subfamilies. Head smooth scaled. Detritivores, leaf miners, stem borers
Very small to quite large moths (8 – 40 mm w/s), mostly small species.
Full hindwing, many species quite stout for “microleps”.
Stathmopodinae (regarded as a good family by van Niuekerken et al, though often still treated as a subfamily of Oecophoridae)
(small, often brightly coloured) have whorls of bristles on legs, hindlegs held outwards and upwards at around 45 – 60° from body; possibly some diurnal spp.

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Gelechiidae
Borers / Twirlers
3rd segment of labial palp usually long, narrow and upturned or recurved;
Hindwing usually broad, trapezoidal, the termen sinuous, with an acutely produced apex.
Mostly dull coloured and mottled, a few bright species.
Small to fairly small moths, 10 – 20 mm w/s.

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Tortricidae
Bell Moths
Labial palps porrect, normally small. Head roughly scaled. Hindwings broad, rounded.
Leaf-rollers, fruit & seed borers, gall formers
Small to fairly small moths 10 – 25 mm w/s
Some pest species successfully controlled with pheromone traps.

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Pyralidae
Knot-horns, Meal Moths, Wax Moths . . . .
Tympanal organ at base of abdomen (also in Crambidae - tympanal shape determines group).
Six subfamilies, mostly detritivores; includes wax moth (Galleria mellonella), Indian meal moth (Plodia interpunctella). Antennae on Phycitinae have distinctive “knot” near base and rest tighly involute.
Small to quite large moths (10 – 40 mm w/s)

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Crambidae
Snout moths, China-mark Moths . . .
16 subfamilies – diverse!
Small to quite large moths (10 – 50 mm w/s). Often colourful; rest almost flat to quite raised at the head, wings widespread in most subfamilies, involute in Crambidae and Schoenobiinae; antennae held along top of abdomen (also in Pyralidae).
Larvae of most subfamilies are leaf rollers, though Acentropinae (=Nymphulinae) are aquatic

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Thyrididae
Tropical Leaf Moths
“Sitting up” posture
Intricate patterns, often with hyaline patches,
Leaf roll larval shelters

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Zygaenidae
Burnet Moths
Small to large moths, often brightly coloured. Poisonous, capable of making HCN. Probably involved as models for many other moths in Batesian mimicry rings, as well as in Müllerian mimicry rings.
Many species are diurnal.
Becoming significant in the trade of Lepidoptera specimens.
Larvae can retract head under thorax

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Sesiidae
Clearwing Moths
Superb mimics of wasps and bees.
Almost exclusively diurnal, although sometimes seen at light.
Larvae usually stem borers
Usually recorded by pheromone trapping using mixtures of long carbon chain acetates (increasingly used in Asia, especially Japan and Vietnam)

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Macrolepidoptera . . .

Sphingidae
Hawk Moths, Sphinx Moths
Haustellum well developed (Sphinginae, Macroglossinae),
Very capable fliers, many can hover; adult body form typically v-deltoid
Larvae with “caudal horn” on dorsal surface of last abdominal segment (sometimes rudimentary)
Medium to large moths (35 –140 mm)
Around 1,300 species globally.

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Saturniidae
Emperor Moths, Atlas Moths, Moon Moths
No wing coupling mechanism; haustellum absent or rudimetary; maxillary palps vestigial; labial palps reduced or very reduced (so most can’t feed as adults).
Large to very large moths –
80 to 300 mm w/s
About 1,300 species globally

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Geometridae
Looper Moths, Emeralds, Carpets, Waves . . . .
Larvae usually have only one pair of prolegs + anal claspers
Adults with tympanic handle (“ansa”) curving over abdominal tympanum
Generally slender bodied with broad wings, well suited to sheltered vegetation, especially forest.
Small to large moths (10 – 100 mm w/s)
Subfamilies often niche specific

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Notodontidae
Prominent Moths
Metathoracic tympanum (Noctuoidea character),
With “bulla” (a teardrop shaped swelling) above; tips of tibial spurs serrated
Dorsal edge of forewing is often with tooth-like projections.
Most species are highly cryptic.
Larvae feed on shrubs and trees.
Fairly small to large moths (25 – 120 mm w/s)

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Erebidae
Owlet Moths, Snout Moths, Fanfoots, Underwing Moths . . .
highly diverse family, containing many subfamilies.
Hindwing with quadrifine cubital vein pattern, counter-tympanal hood on abdomen is post-spiracular or absent
Small to large moths (8 – 130 mm wingspan in Asia, up to 300 mm in Americas)
Labial palps prominent, usually with an upright 3rd segment
Following molecular analyses and cladistic morphological analyses, tiger moths and tussock moths are now included in Erebidae as subfamilies . . .
Erebidae (Lymantriinae)
Tussock Moths
Hindwing with quadrifine cubital vein pattern, counter-tympanal hood on abdomen is pre-spiracular
haustellum vestigial
Larvae with group of 4 prominent scale tussocks on thorax & abdomen, often urticating; some spp are forest defoliators
Erebidae (Arctiinae)
Tiger, Footmen & Wasp (Handmaiden) Moths
Adults hindwing with quadrifine cubital vein pattern, counter-tympanal hood on abdomen is pre-spiracular, with a tymbal organ on metepisternum (just above hindleg), haustellum usually developed. Many are diurnal.
Larvae have two subventral setae (stiff hairs) on the meso- and metathorax, often densly hairy, Lithosiini are lichenivorous

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Nolidae
Nycteolines, bollworms. . .
Defined by boat shaped cocoon and features of the adult male genitalia (no field characters for adults); many species with raised tufts of wing scales and pupae capable of sound production
Diverse forms between subfamilies, within subfamilies fairly similar. Some notable pest species

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Noctuidae
Armyworms, Wainscots, Brocades, Quakers, Sharks, Underwings, Rustics, Plusias. . .
H/w cubital vein in adults appears trifine.
Mainly open habitat species, often associated with monocotyledons, and considered pests; some notable migrant species

Publicado por hkmoths mais de 10 anos antes

Your information on moth identification has really helped me - thanks!

Publicado por allenratzlaff quase 10 anos antes

I wish there were a way to favorite this so I can find it easily when I need it. Thanks for posting this info!

Publicado por kburke quase 8 anos antes

Adicionar um Comentário

Iniciar Sessão ou Registar-se to add comments