British Insects: Pug moths (Lepidoptera-Geometridae)

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz

Eupithecia virgaureata Doubleday

E. pimpinellata sensu Doubleday, E. virgaurearia Morris.

Golden-rod Pug.

Adults. Thorax sometimes with a white posterior spot. Posterior tibiae of males 4-spurred. Wingspan 21–24 mm. Forewings not noticeably elongate; the outer margin convexly curved; the costa more or less straight; apically somewhat pointed.

Forewings dingy; pale grey-brownish or fuscous, with distinct ochreous tinge, sometimes with nervures spotted alternately light and dark, the obtusely angulated dark grey striae more or less ill defined except on the costa; a pale subterminal line more or less interrupted, or this obscure or obsolete and reduced to a faint tornal spot. The forewing patterning more or less dominated by the conspicuous, dark discal and smaller costal spots, or more or less confined to the dark discal spot; without a predominant anterior-median triangle of dark spots. Forewings with a dark discal mark. The discal mark elongate; not whitish-edged; black and distinct. Forewings with a pale tornal spot. Forewing fringes somewhat chequered to not chequered.

Hindwings whitish grey, the colour more or less resembling or paler than that of the forewings; even less conspicuously patterned than the forewings; rather plain (very faintly striated and lined to more or less plains); very faintly postmedianly transversely striated to without transverse striation; with a clear discal mark; usually with a pale tornal spot (but this usually indistinct); the fringes conspicuously chequered to not conspicuously chequered.

The abdomen conspicuously patterned; with a brown or ferrugineous sub-basal band; laterally neither black-streaked nor black-spotted.

Neuration. Forewing and hindwing neuration layout revealed in detail by conspicuous darkening (in f. nigra), or not conspicuously darkened.

Genitalia. The male abdominal plate in the form of a single sclerotized patch with a pair of apical extensions (this apically asymmetrical). The bursa copulatrix with ornamentation conspicuously restricted in distribution (to distal and anterior patches); without spines.

Early stages, ecology. Botanically polyphagous. Foodplants woody-dicotyledonous and herbaceous-dicotyledonous; Compositae (Asteraceae), or Fagaceae, or Gentianaceae, or Rosaceae, or Salicaceae, or Umbelliferae (Apiaceae). The larvae found on Crataegus (first brood), with the second brood usually on Solidago and Senecio, but has been recorded on oak, sallow, hogweed, Gentiana and garden dahlias, and in captivity will eat Wild Chervil; feeding on flowers.

Months of appearance, distribution. Adults abroad April to June (first brood), or July and August (second brood); larvae found June, July, August, September, and October. South-east England, Central-southern England, South-west England, English Midlands, Northern England, Southern Scotland, Northern Scotland, Wales, and Ireland (locally widespread throughout the British Isles except Outer Hebrides, Orkneys and Shetlands).

Melanism. Melanic imagines frequent. The melanic f. nigra has blackish wings with darkened nervures, otherwise unmarked save for the the conspicuous discal spot on the forewings, the less conspicuous hindwing one, and some darkening with inconspicuous spotting of the forewing costa. Melanics of E. tripunctaria, E. trisignaria, E. subfuscata, E. virgaureata and E. lariceata are not reliably separable without resort to the genitalia.

Special key characters. Forewings not dominated by double ante- and postmedian lines. The subterminal line not whitish throughout. Hindwings whitish, or pale ochreous, or pale fuscous, or pale grey.

General comments. Adults somewhat unconvincingly differing from E. subfuscata in the ochreous-tinged forewings, the striae less distinct except on the costa, the veins usually posteriorly alternately marked blackish and whitish, the distinct white tornal dot, and the larger, oval black discal spot. However, the antennal segments of E. virgaureata exhibit cilia in two rows, whereas those of E. subfuscata have them evenly distributed.

Illustrations. • E. virgaureata (Golden-rod Pug), with larva: Barrett. • E. nanata, E. distinctaria and E. virgaureata, with larvae: Barrett. • E. virgaureata (Golden-rod Pug), with similar pugs: South. • E. virgaureata (Golden-rod Pug), with other Pugs: Swain.


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. British insects: Pug moths (Lepidoptera-Geometridae). Version: 29th December 2011. http://delta-intkey.com’.

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