Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Lepidoptera

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Adults crepuscular; relatively 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); wings in repose packed with the forewings directed backwards to cover hindwings and abdomen.

Antennae very short; extending to about 0.13–0.25 times the length of the forewing. Antennae of males simple, or lamellate; non-ciliate. Ocelli absent. Chaetosemata absent (?). Maxillary palps much reduced, or absent; when present, 1–5 segmented; not folded. Labial palps drooping (short); 3 segmented. Proboscis absent.

Wingspan 26–68 mm; 8–12 times the thoracic width. Wings aculeate (strewn with minute spines). Forewings narrow, or broad (mostly); 1.9–2.5 times as long as wide. The outer and hind margins angled at mostly about 110 degrees, or 120 degrees (male and female ‘Ghost Swift’). The outer margin convexly curved; forewings apically blunt; forewings exhibiting shining-metallic markings (sometimes with small yellowish-silvery terminal spots), or neither shining-metallic nor with shining metallic markings; forewings with a jugum. Hindwings ovate-lanceolate to ovate; similar in breadth to the forewings; with a rounded apex; the upper surfaces plain; with neither discal spot nor transverse lines; without a frenulum.

Neuration of forewings and hindwings similar (and characteristically with cross-veins linking the main veins, especially near the base). Forewings 11–14 veined; with 1 anal vein, or with 2 anal veins (? - the interpetation of neuration difficult). The transverse vein complete. Discal cell of the forewings containing a tubular media (M) vein (this forked). Hindwings 11–14 veined; seemingly with 2 anal veins (but the neuration hard to interpret). The anal veins of the hindwings supposedly comprising 1a and 1c. Hindwings exhibiting vein 1a (?); exhibiting a tubular vein 1c (?); with a discal cell (containing a forked M vein). The transverse vein complete. Vein 8 of the hindwings arising from the upper margin of the cell (apparently, in the drawings seen).

Fore-legs with a tibial epiphysis, or without a tibial epiphysis. Tibiae of middle legs without spurs. Posterior tibiae without spurs.

Eggs, larvae and pupae. Eggs not flattened. Larval prolegs 10. Larvae concealed feeders; subterranean.

Pupae concealed; subterranean. Empty pupae protruded from place of concealment.

British representation. Genera 1; 5 species. Hepialus fusconebulosa (Map-winged Swift), Hepialus hecta (Gold Swift), Hepialus humuli (Ghost Moth), Hepialus lupulinus (Common Swift), Hepialus sylvina (Orange Swift, Wood Swift).

Classification. Macromoths. Suborder Monotrysia. Superfamily Hepialoidea.

Comments. Non-industrial (rural) melanism occurs at high latitudes in the Ghost Moth, where the wings of the males are coloured like those of the females, replacing the dazzling white familiar in “normal” populations.

Illustrations. • The British Hepialus species: Newman. • Hepialus humuli (Ghost Moth): Hubner III, 203. • 5 Hepialus species: Kirby. • Hepialus hecta, larva: Kirby. • Hepialus sylvina (Orange Swift, Wood Swift: B. Ent. 185). • Hepialus sylvina (legend+text: B. Ent. 185). • Hepialus sylvina (text, cont.: B. Ent. 185). • Hepialus sylvina: neuration.

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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.’.