Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Lepidoptera

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Adults crepuscular, or nocturnal; relatively very conspicuously long-bodied; relatively slender-bodied (wingspan more than 15 times the thoracic width) to medium built (wingspan more than 8 and less than 15 times the thoracic width); wings in repose partially opened, or with the forewings rolled around the hindwings, the pairs borne horizontally at an angle (or at right angles) to the body (usually, in characteristic pose).

Antennae of medium length to long; extending to about 0.53–0.76 times the length of the forewing. Antennae of males simple; simply-ciliate. Ocelli absent. Chaetosemata absent. Maxillary palps much reduced (minute); 1 segmented. Labial palps porrect; 3 segmented. Proboscis fully developed; not scaly.

Wingspan 13–30 mm; 12–16 times the thoracic width. Wings deeply divided into plumose segments, or entire. Forewings narrow; 6–12 times as long as wide. The upper surfaces plain (though sometimes darkening distally); with neither discal spot nor transverse lines; hindwings with a frenulum.

Neuration of forewings and hindwings dissimilar. Forewings 7–13 veined (veins 3, 8–10, and/or 11 may be absent, but 5 and 6 are always present though very short in cleft-winged species); with 2 anal veins. The anal veins of the forewings comprising 1b and 1c. Forewings supposedly exhibiting a tubular vein 1c. Vein 1b of the forewings furcate proximally (shortly), or obsoletely furcate to simple. The transverse vein complete, or incomplete to vestigial only. Discal cell of the forewings without a tubular media (M) vein. Hindwings 6–8 veined; with 1 anal vein, or with 2 anal veins. The anal veins of the hindwings representing 1b only, or comprising 1b and 1c, or comprising 1a and 1b (?). Hindwings exhibiting vein 1a, or lacking vein 1a (this usually vestigial only); supposedly exhibiting a tubular vein 1c (but the neuration seems dubiously interpreted). The transverse vein complete, or incomplete to vestigial only. 4–6 veins arising from the hindwing cell (sometimes lacking veins 5 and/or 3). The cell-derived hindwing veins all arising independently of one another. Vein 8 of the hindwings completely independent of the cell; approximating to vein 7 beyond the cell to not approximating to vein 7.

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

Tympanal organs absent.

Eggs, larvae and pupae. Eggs markedly flattened; smooth or minutely pitted. Larval prolegs 10. Larvae concealed feeders (in rolled leaves or buds, or inside stems). On divers herbaceous Dicotyledons.

Pupae exposed, with no coccoon, or concealed; subterranean, or on the surface of the ground, or above the ground. Empty pupae not becoming protruded.

British representation. Genera 15; 38 species. Agdistis meridionalis (Sea-side Plume), Pterophorus pentadactyla (White Plume Moth), Pterophorus spilodactylus (Horehound Plume), etc.

Classification. Microlepidoptera. Suborder Ditrysia. Superfamily Pterophoroidea.

Illustrations. • Agdistis meridionalis (Sea-side Plume: B. Ent. 471). • Agdistis meridionalis: B. Ent. 471, legend+text. • Agdistis meridionalis: B. Ent. 471, text cont.. • Agdistis, Amblyptilia, Cnaemidophorus, Oxyptilus and Platyptilia: Leech, 1886. • Capperia, Emmelina, Euleioptilus, Hellinsia, Marasmarcha, Oidaematophorus, Ovendenia, Oxyptilus and Stenoptilia: Leech, 1886. • Cnaemidophorus rhododactyla: Stephens IV, 1834. • Pterophorus spilodactylus (Hore-hound Plume: B. Ent. 161). • Pterophorus spilodactylus: B. Ent. 161, legend+text. • Pterophorus spilodactylus: B. Ent. 161, text cont.. • Assorted Pyraloidea: Kirby. • forewing and hindwing neuration: Agdistis, Emmilina, Merrifielda, Platyptilia and Stenoptilia.

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.’.