Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Lepidoptera

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Callimorphidae; Noctuidae-Arctiinae.

Adults diurnal to nocturnal; relatively short-bodied (rarely), or medium-bodied to long-bodied; medium built (wingspan more than 8 and less than 15 times the thoracic width) to heavily built (wingspan less than 8 times the thoracic width). The abdomen conspicuously patterned (especially Arctiidae: commonly yellow, orange or red, with a dorsal black band or spots), or plain. Adults wings in repose packed with the forewings directed backwards to cover hindwings and abdomen.

Antennae very short to of medium length; extending to about 0.32–0.6 times the length of the forewing; not clubbed. Antennae of males bipectinate, or dentate, or simple (mostly bipectinate in Arctiinae, simple in Lithosiinae); simply-ciliate (often with longer ciliae at the joints). Eyes glabrous. Ocelli present, or absent. Chaetosemata absent. Maxillary palps much reduced; 1 segmented. Labial palps porrect to ascending (small); 3 segmented. Proboscis fully developed.

Wingspan 19–75 mm; (6–)7–14 times the thoracic width. Forewings narrow to broad; 1.5–3.2 times as long as wide. Tornus clearly defined. The outer margin convexly curved; forewings apically blunt (mostly very); forewings without subcostal tufts of scales. Hindwings ovate to broadly rounded; similar in breadth to the forewings to markedly broader than the forewings; with a rounded apex; the upper surfaces conspicuously patterned above (sometimes very brightly so), or plain; with a discal spot, or with transverse lines, or with neither discal spot nor transverse lines; with a frenulum.

Neuration of forewings and hindwings dissimilar. Forewings 10–12 veined (veins 5, 8, 9 sometimes absent); with 1 anal vein. The anal veins of the forewings representing 1b only. Forewings lacking a tubular vein 1c. Vein 1b of the forewings minutely furcate proximally, or simple. The transverse vein complete to incomplete. Discal cell of the forewings without a tubular media (M) vein. Hindwings 7–9 veined; with 2 anal veins. The anal veins of the hindwings comprising 1a and 1b. Hindwings exhibiting vein 1a; lacking a tubular vein 1c. Vein 1b of the hindwings simple. The transverse vein complete to incomplete. The hindwing cell emitting more than six veins, or emitting no more than six veins. 5 veins arising from the hindwing cell, or 6 veins arising from the hindwing cell, or 7 veins arising from the hindwing cell (veins 6 and 7 sometimes coincident, 5 sometimes missing). The cell-derived hindwing veins 3+4 proximally joined (connate or stalked), or 6+7 proximally joined (connate, stalked or coincident), or 3+4 proximally joined and 6+7 proximally joined. Vein 8 of the hindwings arising from the upper margin of the cell (from near the middle or beyond); not approximating to vein 7.

Fore-legs with a tibial epiphysis. Tibiae of middle legs 2-spurred. Posterior tibiae 2-spurred, or 4-spurred.

Tympanal organs present; metathoracic.

Eggs, larvae and pupae. Eggs not flattened; smooth or minutely pitted (usually). Larval prolegs 10. Larvae usually conspicuously, densely long-hairy; with urticating hairs, or without urticating hairs. Mainly on divers herbaceous and woody dicots, but extending to monocots, conifers, algae, lichens.

Pupae concealed; on the surface of the ground, or above the ground. Empty pupae not becoming protruded.

British representation. Genera 23 (2 adventive); 36 species (3 adventive). Lithosiinae: Atolmis rubricollis (Red-necked Footman), Coscinia cribraria (Speckled Footman), Cybosia mesomella (Four-dotted Footman), Diaphora mendica (Muslin moth), Eilema caniola (Hoary Footman), Eilema complana (Scarce Footman), Eilema depressa (Buff Footman), Eilema griseola (Dingy Footman), Eilema lurideola (Common Footman), Eilema sororcula (Orange Footman), Eilema pygmaeola (Pigmy Footman), Eilema sericea (Northern Footman), Lithosia quadra (Four-spotted Footman) Miltochrista miniata (Rosy Footman), Nudaria mundana (Muslin Footman), Pelosia muscerda (Dotted Footman), Pelosia obtusa, Setina irrorella (Dew Moth), Thumatha senex (Round-winged Muslin). Arctiinae: Arctia caja (Garden Tiger), Arctia villica (Cream-spot Tiger), Callimorpha dominula (Scarlet Tiger), Coscinia cribraria (Speckled Footman), Diacrisia sannio (~russula: Clouded Buff), Diaphora mendica (Muslin Moth), Euplagia quadripunctaria (Jersey Tiger), Halisidota moeschleri (adventive, not illustrated), Parasemia plantaginis (Wood Tiger), Phragmatobia fuliginosa (Ruby Tiger), Pyrrharctia isabella (adventive, not illustrated), Spilosoma luteum (Buff Ermine), Spilosoma lubricepida (White Ermine), Spilosoma urticae (Water Ermine), Spiris striata (Feathered Footman), Tyria jacobaeae (Cinnabar), Utetheisa pulchella (Crimson-speckled Footman).

Classification. Macromoths. Suborder Ditrysia. Superfamily Noctuoidea.

Comments. Arctiinae include several of the most spectacularly coloured of the larger British moths. Spilosoma luteum and S. lubricepida exhibit spectacular examples of non-industrial, “rural melanism”. The melanic zatima form of the former species seemingly represents selective maintenance of cryptic coloration in the sand-dune habitats (e.g., in Yorkshire and Lancashire) in which it it occurs. In the related Diaphora mendica, melanism represents the normal condition of males in Britain, except in Ireland where they are usually white with black dots (i.e., like the females) or pale buff. See the accompanying illustrations.

Illustrations. • The British Lithosiinae: Newman. • British Arctiinae (1): Newman. • British Arctiinae (2): Newman. • British Arctiinae (3): Newman. • Callimorpha dominula (Scarlet Tiger): photo, Giles Watson. • Arctia villica (Cream-spot Tiger: Shaw & Nodder, about 1811). • Arctia villica (Cream-spot Tiger: Shaw & Nodder, text). • Callimorpha dominula (Scarlet Tiger: Shaw and Nodder, about 1811). • Callimorpha dominula (Scarlet Tiger: Shaw and Nodder, text). • Spilosoma lubricepida (ab. walkeri Curtis. Original generic description. White Ermine, melanic variety; B. Ent. 92). • Spilosoma lubricepida (melanic White Ermine, ab. walkeri: B. Ent. 92, legend+text). • Spilosoma lubricepida (White Ermine, ab. walkeri): Stephens II, 1830. • Spilosoma lubricepida (ab. walkeri: B. Ent. 92, text cont.). • Diaphora mendica (Muslin moth: B. Ent. 213). • Diaphora mendica : B. Ent. 213, legend+text. • Diaphora mendica : B. Ent. 213, text cont.. • Spilosoma lutea, S. lubricepida and Diaphora mendica (Buff and White Ermines, Muslin): photos. • Tyria jacobaeae (Cinnabar: B. Ent. 499). • Tyria jacobaeae (legend+text: B. Ent. 499). • Tyria jacobaeae (text, cont.: B. Ent. 499). • Utetheisa pulchella: (Crimson-speckled Footman: B. Ent. 169). • Utetheisa pulchella: B. Ent. 169, legend+text. • Utetheisa pulchella: B. Ent. 169, text cont.. • Coscinia cribraria (Speckled Footman: B. Ent. 56). • Coscinia cribraria: B. Ent. 56, legend. • Diacrisia sannio (~russula: Clouded Buff, B. Ent. 21). • Diacrisia sannio (~russula) B. Ent. 21, legend+text. • Diacrisia sannio (~russula) B. Ent. 21, text cont.. • Pelosia muscerda (Dotted Footman: B. Ent. 36). • Pelosia muscerda: B. Ent. 36, legend+text. • Pelosia muscerda: B. Ent. 36, text cont.. • Nudaria mundana (Muslin Footman: B. Ent. 400). • Nudaria mundana: B. Ent. 400, legend+text. • Nudaria mundana: B. Ent. 400, text cont.. • Lithosiinae: Kirby 22 (part). • Lithosiinae, Arctiinae (Footmen, etc.): Kirby 23. • Utetheisa pulchella, larva: Kirby 52 (part). • Arctiinae (Tiger Moths): Kirby 24. • Arctiinae (Tiger Moths, Ermines): Kirby 25 (part). • Arctia caja (Garden Tiger: Giles Watson, photos). • Spilosoma luteum and Phragmatobia fuliginosa: Giles Watson, photos. • Eilema sororcula (Orange Footman): Stephens II, 1830. • Setina irrorella (Dew Moth): Stephens II, 1830. • Spiris striata (Feathered Footman): Stephens II, 1830. • Thumatha senex (Round-winged Muslin): Stephens II, 1830. • Larvae: Arctia caja, Arctia villica (Duponchel, 1849). • Larva: Callimorpha dominula (Duponchel, 1849). • Larvae: Eilema caniola, E. complana, E. lurideola (Duponchel, 1849). • Larva: Lithosia quadra (Duponchel, 1849). • Larva and pupa: Parasemia plantaginis (Duponchel, 1849). • neuration: Lithosiinae, Arctiinae. • neuration: Lithosia, Spilosoma, Callimorpha.

To view the illustrations with detailed captions, go to the interactive key. This also offers full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, and distributions of character states within any set of taxa.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2003 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Lepidoptera. Version: 8th June 2016.’.