A Walk Through the Major Families of Moths


There are approximately 65 families of moths found in North America, or perhaps 70 if all recent suggestions for taxonomic changes are followed. Representatives of about 25 of them, mostly of the larger families, are shown here. They are a diverse and colorful group of animals.
 

  Gracillariidae


These are very tiny micromoths, usually 5-7 mm in length and less than 1 mm in apparent body diameter when at rest. Think of something as small or smaller than a midge or mosquito. In most cases the larvae are leafminers that tunnel or "mine" between the outer layers of a leaf.
 

Unidentified Caloptilia sp.
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Azalea Leaf-miner Moth
Richard Leung - VA
 
Blandella Leaf-miner Moth
Machele White - FL
 
Caloptilia syringella
Ian Kimber - UK
 
  Oecophoridae


This is a diverse family of medium-sized moths (typically 6-15 mm in length). Larvae usually feed while concealed in webs of one kind or another (rolled leaves, for instance). Some feed on dead leaves, dead animal matter, or fungi. Promalactis suzukiella is a recently introduced species.
 

Agonopterix robiniella
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Schlaeger's Fruitworm Moth
Robert Patterson - MD - 15.5mm
 
Epicallima argenticinctella
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Promalactis suzukiella [T]
Robert Patterson - MD
 
  Coleophoridae -- Casebearer Moths


In this family of small micromoths we find the interesting habit, on the part of the larvae, of constructing protective cases in which they move about while feeding. These cases take on distinctive designs that may be reflected in common names given to the species.
 

American Pistol Casebearer Moth
John Himmelman - CT
 
Metallic Coleophora Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Octagonal Casemaker Moth
Troy Bartlett - GA
 
Unidentified Coleophora sp.
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Momphidae
Agonoxenidae
Cosmopterigidae
Gelechiidae
Mompha eloisella
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Lime-tree Moth
Lynette Schimming - NC
 
Euclemensia bassettella
Randy Newman - NC
 
Least Dichomeris Moth
Robert Patterson - MD - 3.5 mm
 
Alucitidae
Glyphipterigidae
Plutellidae
Yponomeutidae
Six-plume Moth
Larry Line - CO
 
Hayworth's Glyphipterid Moth
Ian Kimber - UK
 
Mimosa Webworm Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Ailanthus Webworm Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
  Sesiidae -- Clear-winged Borer Moths


This is an interesting family for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that its members are day-flying moths. Adults nectar at flowers and may be helpful in polination. Larvae bore into various parts of plant, often cultivated trees and crop plants, and may be an economic nuisance.
 

Raspberry Crown Borer Moth
Anthony W. Thomas - NB
 
Squash Vine Borer Moth
Richard Breen - WI
 
Florida Oak Gall Moth
Machele White - FL
 
Maple Callus Borer Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
  Tortricidae


This is a large family of small moths (typically 6-12 mm in length) with representatives in almost all habitats. Many of those that have been given common names are known as Leaftiers, Leafrollers and so forth. Some are serious pests such as the apple Codling Moth.
 

Tulip-tree Leaftier Moth
Paul McNelis - PA
 
Codling Moth
Nolie Schneider - ON
 
Sculptured Moth
Machele White - FL
 
Oak Leafroller Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Gray-banded Leafroller Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
The Batman Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Thaumatographa jonesi
Arlene Ripley - MD
 
Primrose Cochylis Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Zygaenidae
Megalopygidae
Limacodidae
Epipyropidae
Orange-patched Smoky Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Yellow Flannel Moth
Robert Patterson - FL
 
Yellow-collared Slug Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Planthopper Parasite Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
  Pyralidae - Crambidae


Like the Tortricidae this is a group that exceeds 1,000 species found in diverse habitats throughout the continent. Some of its species are considered pests of agriculture and horticulture. Others have been introduced to North America as biological control agents of weedy plants.
 

Julia's Dicymolomia Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Pegasus Chalcoela Moth
Machele White - FL
 
Waterlily Borer Moth
Machele White - FL
 
European Corn Borer Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Neohelvibotys neohelvialis
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Melonworm Moth
Robert Patterson - FL
 
Obscure Pondweed Moth
Machele White - FL
 
Bicolored Pyrausta Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Raspberry Pyrausta Moth
David Bree - ON
 
Mint-loving Pyrausta Moth
Machele White - MD
 
White-spotted Sable Moth
Anthony W. Thomas - NB
 
Elegant Grass-veneer Moth
Robert Patterson - PA
 
Sod Webworm Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Crambus satrapellus
Robert Patterson - FL
 
  Pterophoridae -- The Plume Moths


Plume Moths are fun to observe. It takes some convincing of yourself to believe they are actually moths. The wings are deeply lobed and well illustrated in Jim Vargo's spread specimen. In real life it is difficult to see the hindwing. Sometimes you see just one lobe looking like a haltere.
 

Geina periscelidactyla
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Geina buskii
Jim Vargo - IN
 
Morning-glory Plume Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
  Geometridae -- The Inchworm or Geometer Moths


One of the largest moth families, the Geometridae are found wherever moths are found in North America. For the most part they spread their wings fully when at rest. Colors run the gamut from drab to spectacular. There are many instances in this family of flightless females.
 

Fall Cankerworm Moth
[f.] - Charles Lewallen - OK
 
Fall Cankerworm Moth
[m.] - Robert Patterson - MD
 
The Half-wing Moth
[f.] - Anthony W. Thomas - NB
 
The Half-wing Moth
[m.] - Machele White - FL
 
Common Spring Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Hemlock Angle Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Orange-marked Hazelnut Moth
John Davis - WA
 
White-tipped Black Moth
Alan Chin-Lee - FL
 
Crocus Geometer sp. grp.
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Northern Pine Looper Moth
Tom Murray - MA
 
Phantom Hemlock Looper Moth
John Davis - WA
 
Deep Yellow Euchlaena Moth
Troy Bartlett - GA
 
Red-bordered Emerald Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Fervid Plagodis Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
  Saturniidae -- Giant Silkmoths


In this family we find our largest resident moths of North America and some of our most colorful ones.
 

Luna Moth
John Himmelman - CT
 
Rosy Maple Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Sphingicampa raspa
Alexis White - Mexico
 
Buck Moth
Ronnie Gaubert - LA
Io Moth
Ronnie Gaubert - LA
 
Elegant Sheepmoth
John Davis - WA
 
Imperial Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
  Sphingidae -- Sphinx Moths or Hawkmoths


These are rapid flyers that nectar at flowers. Some are crepuscular and some diurnal. Most are readily attracted to lights. They are often seen in the floodlights high above athletic fields, and sometimes land on my driveway where I must be careful not to step on them as they snooze away.
 

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth
Nolie Schneider - ON
 
Small-eyed Sphinx Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
White-lined Sphinx Moth
Charles Lewallen - OK
 
Snowberry Clearwing Moth
John Himmelman - CT
 
  Arctiidae -- Our Most Colorful Family


I may get some argument about "most colorful family," but that's how impressed I am by these moths. Many of them are day flyers found nectaring at wild and garden flowers. Many of them are also attracted to lights. Diversity in size, color and pattern is rampant in this family.
 

Hickory Tussock Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Scarlet-winged Lichen Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Black-and-Yellow Lichen Moth
Cheryl Johnson - NH
 
Virginia Ctenucha Moth
Tom Murray - MA
 
Scarlet-bodied Wasp Moth
Ronnie Gaubert - LA
 
Salt Marsh Moth [m.]
Scott Nelson - FL
 
Polka-dot Wasp Moth
Machele White - FL
 
  Noctuidae -- The Largest Family


With more than 3,000 species in North America it is difficult to select a few examples to be representative of the whole. Modern taxonomists have recently placed some species in a new family, the Nolidae, and there are further such proposals under consideration.
 

American Idia Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Grayish Zanclognatha Moth
Nolie Schneider - ON
 
Black-bordered Lemon Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Spotted Grass Moth
Bev Wigney - ON
 
Beautiful Eutelia Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Horrid Zale Moth
Stephen Cresswell - WV
 
Formosa Looper Moth
Tom Murray - MA
 
The Herald Moth
Tim Dyson - ON
 
Hologram Moth
Janice Stiefel - WI
 
Pearly Wood-nymph Moth
Robert Patterson - MD
 
Heiroglyphic Moth
James Adams - GA
 
Eyed Paectes Moth
Stephen Cresswell - WV
 
Aholibah Underwing Moth
John Davis - WA
 
Variable Tropic Moth
Lynette Schimming - NC
 






MothTalk/MothTalk007.htm -- 01/15/2007