What is the species name of this moth?

What is the species name of this moth?

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This insect was found in India. It looks like a hawk moth to me, but I still can't get the exact name for this species.

I believe that it is the vine hawk moth (Choerocampa rosetta).

What are moths?

Moths and butterflies are insects which together form the order called Lepidoptera, meaning 'scaly-winged'. The patterns and colours of their wings are formed by thousands of tiny scales, overlapping like tiles on a roof.

Lepidoptera found in Britain includes over 2,500 species of moth but fewer than 70 butterflies. People may think there are simple rules for telling moths from butterflies, but none of these "rules" hold completely true and most of the differences are myths. Moths and butterflies share the same basic biology and have far more similarities than differences.

As there are so many species of moths, experts split them into two groups, the larger (or macro-) moths and the smaller (or micro-) moths. There are around 900 macro-moths in Britain. Many micro-moths are very small indeed, although confusingly a few of them are larger than the smallest macro-moths!

Moths vary greatly in appearance as well as size. For example, the big Hawk-moths have narrow swept-back wings for fast, powerful flight, while the Plume moths have delicate feathery wings. Other shapes are characteristic of different moth families. Colours and patterns also vary, some very bright and bold while others have wonderful camouflage.

Moths are very diverse in their ecology too, and live in some surprising places not just gardens, farmland and woodlands, but also marshlands, sand dunes and even mountain tops! You can also see moths at any time of the year, with different species active in different months, including mid-winter.

BugInfo Moths

Numbers of species. Moths are in the insect Order Lepidoptera, and share this Order with Butterflies. There are some 160,000 species of moths in the world, compared to 17,500 species of butterflies. In the United States, there are nearly 11,000 species of moths.

Distinctive characteristics. Moths (and their close relatives, the butterflies) are the only group of insects that have scales covering their wings, although there are a few exceptions. They differ from other insects also by their ability to coil up their feeding tube (the proboscis). Moths can usually be distinguished from butterflies by their antennae, which are typically threadlike or feathery in contrast, butterflies have club-tipped antennae.

General statements. Although moths have for the most part relatively dull wing colors, there are many species with spectacular colors and patterns. The Giant Silkworm Moths form a vast array of large, impressive insects with colorful wings, sometimes with long tails on the hind wings. One of the moth species most commonly seen is the Tomato Hornworm Moth, although it is noticed in the caterpillar stage as it devours tomato foliage in the garden. Opposite to the habits of butterflies, moths usually fly during the night to gather nectar at flowers. However, there are many day-flying moths, and many of them are brightly colored. The insect that is often considered as the most beautiful insect in the world is a day-flying moth, The Sunset Moth, from Madagascar. Day-flying moths are often noticed feeding at flowers.

Immatures. Caterpillars are the name given to the larvae of both moths and butterflies. They are usually very distinctive, and in some cases may be identified more easily than the adults. Caterpillars eat voraciously to transform plant material into the tissues that they will need for changing into moths.

Migration in the Lepidoptera is not limited to butterflies such as the Monarch. There are many migratory moths, including the day flying Hummingbird Hawkmoth, which migrates from southern parts to northern parts of Europe as temperatures rise in early summer.

Evolution example. The Peppered Moth of Europe is commonly cited as a classic example in evolution, and was studied by H. B. D. Kettlewell as an example of "industrial melanism. Moths with salt and pepper colored wings are not detected on bark that contains lichens of similar colors and patterns. Trees during the industrial revolution became so soot-covered that moths with genetic makeup for dark colors developed because they were not seen and eaten by birds. The reverse of this mechanism has resulted through time as tree bark returned to a lighter color.

Classification. Moths are divided into many families that have different morphological characteristics. The following families include the majority of moth species:

Arctiidae. There are approximately 10,000 species of this Family in the world, and they are commonly called Tiger Moths. Many species in this group display bright colors of red and yellow.

Geometridae. With some 15,000 described species, this Family is the second largest of moths in the world. Larvae are usually called "inch-worms" because of their walking patterns.

Noctuidae. This Family is by far the largest in moths, with some 25,000 known species in the world. Cutworms, fruitworms and underwing moths occur in this Family.

Saturniidae. This Family includes the largest of moths, and incorporates some 1,000 worldwide species. The Luna Moth of the Eastern United States is an example of this Family.

Sphingidae. Members of this Family have streamlined wings and robust bodies. They are generally large, and the Family contains about 1,000 species.

Microlepidoptera is the term given to a wide variety of very small moths (with few exceptions). The group contains many thousands of tiny species, some with spectacular colors and appearances. Some are pest species, such as the Clothes Moth and the Codling Moth.

Selected References:

Carter, David. 1992. Butterflies and Moths (Eyewitness Handbooks). Dorling Kindersley, Inc., New York.

Covell, C. V., Jr. 1984. A Field Guide to the Moths of Eastern North America. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

Hodges, R. W. 1971. The Moths of America North of Mexico. Fascicle 21: Sphingoidea. Curwen Press, London. (This is one of many volumes in the M.O.N.A. series, an ongoing project of major importance).

Prepared by the Department of Systematic Biology, Entomology Section,
National Museum of Natural History, in cooperation with Public Inquiry Services,
Smithsonian Institution


Gypsy moths reproduce once a year. Females tend to be flightless. They lay an egg mass containing between 500-1,500 eggs on tree trunks. The eggs overwinter and hatch in late spring or early summer. Larvae go through up to seven instars (developmental stages of insects between molts) and then pupate in late summer. Larve feed voraciously on tree leaves. In Alaska, they would feed on leaves from alder, birch, aspen, poplar, willow, hemlock, larch and fir trees. Larvae are nocturnal feeders and congregate in shady areas during the day. Pupation in the late summer lasts from 7-14 days before emergence as an adult. The males will emerge first and search for females. The females, generally being flightless, will lay their eggs near their pupation site. After mating, both adults die.

New species of moths discovered in the Alps named after three famous alpinists

A Curved-horn moth of the genus Caryocolum feeding on a carnation plant. This genus feeds exclusively on plants in the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae). Credit: P. Buchner/Tiroler Landesmuseen

The discovery of new, still unnamed animal species in a well-researched European region like the Alps is always a small sensation. All the more surprising is the description of a total of three new to science species previously misidentified as long-known alpine moths.

During a genetic project of the Tyrolean State Museums in Innsbruck (Austria), Austrian entomologist and head of the Natural Science Collections Peter Huemer used an integrative research approach that relies on molecular methods to study four European moths. Despite having been known for decades, those species remained quite controversial, because of many unknowns around their biology.

At the end, however, it turned out that the scientist was not dealing with four, but seven species. The three that were not adding up were indeed previously unknown species. Therefore, Huemer described the moths in a paper in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal Alpine Entomology. Curiously, all three species were given the names of legendary alpinists: Reinhold Messner, Peter Habeler and David Lama.

Tribute to three legends in alpinism

"The idea to name the new species in honour of three world-renowned climbers was absolutely no coincidence," explains Huemer.

One of the newly described species, Caryocolum messneri, or Messner's Curved-horn moth, is dedicated to Reinhold Messner. Messner is a famous alpinist who was the first to reach Mount Everest without additional oxygen, but also the first climber to ascend all fourteen peaks over 8,000 metres. For decades, he has been inspiring followers through lectures and books. His is also the Messner Mountain Museum project, which comprises six museums located at six different locations in South Tyrol, northern Italy, where each has the task to educate visitors on "man's encounter with mountains" by showcasing the science of mountains and glaciers, the history of mountaineering and rock climbing, the history of mythical mountains, and the history of mountain-dwelling people.

Habitat of Caryocolum lamai (Lama's Curved-horn moth), Italy, Alpi Cozie, Colle Valcavera. Credit: Peter Huemer

"So what could have been a better fit for a name for the species that flutters on the doorstep of his residence, the Juval Castle in South Tyrol?" says Huemer.

The second new species, Caryocolum habeleri, or Habeler's Curved-horn moth, honours another extraordinary mountaineer: Peter Habeler. Having joined Messner on his expedition to Mount Everest, he also climbed this mountain without additional oxygen in a first for history. Another achievement is his climbing the famous Eiger North Face in mere 10 hours. Additionally, together with the study's author, he sits on the advisory board of the nature conservation foundation "Blühendes Österreich." However, the species' name is also a nod to Peter Habeler's cousin: Heinz Habeler, recognised as "the master of butterfly and moth research in Styria". His collection is now housed in the Tyrolean State Museums.

The third alpinist, whose name is immortalised in a species name, is David Lama, specially recognised by Huemer for his commitment to conservation. Once, in order to protect endangered butterflies along the steep railway embankments in Innsbruck, Lama took care to secure volunteers in a remarkable action. Nevertheless, Lama earned his fame for his spectacular climbing achievements. His was the first free ascent of the Compressor route on the south-eastern flank of Cerro Torre.

"Unfortunately, David lost his life far too soon in a tragic avalanche accident on 16 April 2019 in Banff National Park, Canada. Now, Caryocolum lamai (Lama's Curved-horn moth) is supposed to make him 'immortal' also in the natural sciences," says Huemer.

David Lama (1990 - 2019), a legendary alpinist, recognised by the study's author also for his commitment to conservation. Credit: MoserB

Many unresolved questions

The newly described moth species are closely related and belong to the genus Caryocolum of the so-called Curved-horn moths (family Gelechiidae).

As caterpillars, the species of this genus live exclusively on carnation plants. Even though the biology of the new moths is still unknown, because of their collection localities, it could be deduced that plants such as the stone carnation are likely their hosts. All species are restricted to dry and sunny habitats and sometimes inhabit altitudes of up to 2,500 m. So far, they have only been observed with artificial light at night.

While Messner's Curved-horn moth occurs from northern Italy to Greece, the area of Habeler's Curved-horn Moth is limited to the regions between southern France, northern Switzerland and southeastern Germany. On the other hand, Caryocolum lamai, only inhabits a small area in the western Alps of Italy and France.

Research on alpine butterflies and moths has been an important scientific focus at the Tyrolean state museums for decades. In 30 years, Peter Huemer discovered and named over 100 previously unknown to science species of lepidopterans. All these new discoveries have repeatedly shown the gaps in the study of biodiversity, even in Central Europe.

"How could we possibly protect a species that we don't even have a name for is one of the key questions for science that derives from these studies," says Huemer in conclusion.

Oleander Hawk-Moth

Matee Nuserm / Shutterstock

The oleander hawk-moth (Daphnis nerii) is a large example of a hawk-moth, with a wingspan of three inches. It's best known for its flying ability, and when it hovers over flowers to feed on nectar, it's easily mistaken for a hummingbird. Also known as the army green moth, it has a complex camouflage pattern that ranges from green to white to purple. It's found in Asia, Africa, and the Hawaiian Islands, where it was introduced to pollinate some endangered flowers.

What is the species name of this moth? - Biology

The ornate bella moth, Utetheisa ornatrix (Linnaeus), is one of our most beautiful moths (Figure 1). Unlike most moths, which are nocturnal, the ornate bella moth is diurnal and flies readily when disturbed. Therefore, it is more commonly seen than nocturnal species of moths by the public.

Figure 1. Adult and larva of the ornate bella moth, Utetheisa ornatrix (Linnaeus). Photograph by Lary Reeves, Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida.

Synonymy (Back to Top)

The adult ornate bella moth is highly variable in coloration which has resulted in confusion regarding its taxonomy and the assignment of many names to the numerous color "forms". Linnaeus (Linnei 1758) originally described two species in the genus Phalaena &mdash ornatrix (more whitish or pale specimens) and bella (brightly colored specimens), and Hübner later moved them to the genus Utetheisa. Forbes (1960) included both forms under the species Utetheisa ornatrix.

Distribution (Back to Top)

The ornate bella moth is found from Connecticut westward to southeastern Nebraska, and southward to New Mexico, southeastern Arizona and Florida (Covell 2005, Powell & Opler 2009, North American Moth Photographers Group Undated). It is also found through Mexico and southward through Central (Powell & Opler 2009) and South America all the way to Argentina (Pease 1968) and throughout most of the Antilles (North American Moth Photographers Group Undated). In the U.S., it is more common in the southern part of its range.

Description (Back to Top)

Eggs: The eggs are white to yellow and spherical (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Eggs of the ornate bella moth, Utetheisa ornatrix (Linnaeus). Photograph by Don Hall, Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida.

Larvae: The larvae are orange-brown with broad irregular black bands on each segment (Figure 3). Full-grown larvae are 30-35 mm in length. There are distinct white spots on the anterior and posterior margins of the black bands. Whereas most arctiine larvae have verrucae (elevated wart-like areas on the cuticle) bearing many setae, Utetheisa larvae lack verrucae, and setae occur singly (Habeck 1987).

Figure 3. Larva of the ornate bella moth, Utetheisa ornatrix (Linnaeus). Photograph by Don Hall, Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida.

Pupae: The pupae are black with irregular orange-brown bands and are covered with a loose layer of silk (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Pupa of the ornate bella moth, Utetheisa ornatrix (Linnaeus). Photograph by Don Hall, Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida.

Adults: The adult ornate bella moth is a rather small moth (wingspan 3.0 to 4.5 cm). The more common "bella" form has the front wings yellow with white bands each containing a row of black dots, and the hindwings bright pink with an irregular marginal black band (Figures 5 and 6). The paler form originally designated "ornatrix" is restricted to southern Florida and southern Texas.

Figure 5. Adult ornate bella moth, Utetheisa ornatrix (Linnaeus), on fruit of lanceleaf rattlebox, Crotalaria lanceolata E. Mey. Photograph by Don Hall, Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida.

Figure 6. Adult ornate bella moth, Utetheisa ornatrix (Linnaeus). with wings spread. Photograph by Don Hall, Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida.

Life Cycle and Biology (Back to Top)

The ornate bella moth has two generations northward but may breed continuously in the southernmost parts of its range (Covell 2005). Eggs are laid in clusters on the foliage. Upon hatching, the young larvae feed on the foliage. In laboratory studies, young larvae fed on foliage of native species of Crotalaria developed faster than those fed on foliage of exotic species (Sourakov 2015). After feeding briefly on foliage, the larvae move to the unripe pods which they bore into to feed on the seeds Upon reaching maturity, larvae migrate from the host plant to pupate in sheltered situations under loose bark on nearby trees, in thick vegetation, or in debris.

Much of what we know about the biology of the ornate bella moth is due to the fascinating work of Thomas Eisner and his colleagues and graduate students. This work is summarized in his book, For Love of Insects (Eisner 2003, Chapter 10). The biology of the ornate bella moth is intricately intertwined with its Crotalaria host plants. Crotalaria plants (particularly the immature seeds) are laced with pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Immature seeds contain approximately five times the amount of pyrrolizidine alkaloid as the foliage (Ferro et al. 2006). Ornate bella moth larvae sequester these chemicals and become poisonous (and usually repellent) to predators. The alkaloids are retained in the pupal and adult stages and are ultimately passed on to the eggs.

Adults are concentrated in patches of Crotalaria. Males become active approximately 1 to 1½ hours after sunset and are attracted to females by a pulsed (Connor et al. 1980) sex attractant pheromone - composed primarily of the 21 carbon triene (3 double bonds) chemical Z,Z,Z-3,6,9-heneicosatriene originating from glands at the tip of the female's abdomen. The pheromone also contains diene and tetraene forms (two and four double bonds, respectively) (Connor et al. 1980, Jain et al. 1983). (For chemical structures of Utetheisa ornatrix pheromones, see El-Sayed (2014).

Males convert some of their Crotalaria alkaloids to a related compound hydroxydanaidal (HD), and upon approaching a female, expose two eversible brushes (coremata) from the tip of the abdomen that contain HD saturated scales (Conner et al. 1981, Connor et al. 1990). Fanning the female with the coremata stimulates her to raise her wings exposing her abdomen. The male then lands beside her and copulates. In addition to sperm, males also transfer nutrients and HD to the female during mating via the spermatophore. The concentration of HD in the coremata is correlated with the amount of alkaloid carried by the males. Females measure the HD concentration of males and use that information for selecting males with the potential to donate the most pyrrolizidine alkaloids in the spermatophore (Conner et al. 1981, Dussourd et al. 1991, Iyengar et al. 2001). Higher HD alkaloid levels in males is correlated with larger body size which is a heritable trait (Iyengar & Eisner 1999a&b). Therefore, by selecting males with higher gifts of HD alkaloid, females are simultaneously selecting for increased male body size – a trait that will be passed on to her progeny. Furthermore, females are able to control which sperm fertilize the eggs, and those from larger males are more likely to fertilize the eggs (Egan et al. 2016, LaMunyon & Eisner 1993). The mechanism by which females control the flow of sperm is unknown, but LaMunyon & Eisner (1993) hypothesized that females make the decision based on the degree of distension of the bursa copulatrix (insect vagina) by each spermatophore. The larger spermatophores of larger males would cause greater distension of the bursa.

Adult ornate bella moths live approximately three weeks and females mate on average four to five times and as many as 13 times &mdash each time receiving additional nutrients and alkaloids as nuptial gifts via the spermatophores. The additional nutrients allow the female to lay a larger number of eggs than would otherwise be possible. During oviposition, the female contributes not only her own alkaloids, but also those received from the male to her eggs making the eggs even more toxic to potential predators. Bezzerides and Eisner (2002) have demonstrated that individual eggs from multiply-mated females receive alkaloids from more than one male. The female herself also gains additional protection from predators due to the additional alkaloids from the male spermatophores (González et al. 1999).

Because most of our common Crotalarias are introduced weedy species and toxic to cattle, the ornate bella moth plays a beneficial role by eating their seeds and suppressing their reproduction.

Hosts (Back to Top)

Although a variety of plants in the family Fabaceae are listed in the literature as hosts for the ornate bella moth (Covell 2005, Robinson et al. 2010, Tietz 1972), species in the genus Crotalaria (e.g., Figures 7 to 10) are without a doubt the major if not the only true hosts. It is possible that the other host records are due to the habit of full-grown larvae to wander from the host plant (and often onto other species) prior to pupation.

Only four species of Crotalaria are native to the southeastern U.S. of which two occur in Florida &mdash Avon Park rattlebox (Crotalaria avonensis DeLaney & Wunderlin), which is restricted to Florida, and rabbitbells (Crotalaria rotundifolia J.F. Gmel.). Many other species of Crotalaria were introduced into the southeastern U.S. 55-65 years ago for soil improvement and forage. Unfortunately, species of Crotalaria are toxic to livestock due to the presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, and are potentially fatal. Three species of Crotalaria have become established and are common in Florida. These are Crotalaria lanceolata E. Mey. and Crotalaria pallida Aiton var. obovata (G. Don) Pohill (formerly Crotalaria mucronata Desv.) which are both native to Africa and Crotalaria spectabilis Roth which is native to Asia. The name Crotalaria originates from the Greek root "crotal" which means "a rattle". It is the same root word as used in the genus name for rattle snakes, Crotalus. The mature dried fruit of Crotalaria rattles like a rattle snake when the pods are shaken or blown by the wind.

Figure 7. Lanceleaf rattlebox, Crotalaria lanceolata E. Mey, in fruit. This plant is a host of the ornate bella moth, Utetheisa ornatrix (Linnaeus). Photograph by Don Hall, Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida.

Figure 8. A flower spike of lanceleaf rattlebox, Crotalaria lanceolata E. Mey, with carpenter ants feeding at extrafloral nectaries. This plant is a host of the ornate bella moth, Utetheisa ornatrix (Linnaeus). Photograph by Don Hall, Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida.

Figure 9. Smooth rattlebox, Crotalaria pallida Aiton var. obovata (G. Don) Pohill (formerly Crotalaria mucronata Desv.), with flowers and fruit. This plant is a host of the ornate bella moth, Utetheisa ornatrix (Linnaeus). Photograph by Don Hall, Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida.

Figure 10. Showy rattlebox, Crotalaria spectabilis Roth., a host of the ornate bella moth, Utetheisa ornatrix (Linnaeus). Photograph by Don Hall, Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida.

For further information on Crotalaria species, see Isley (1990), Wunderlin and Hansen (2003), Wunderlin et al. (2016) and the Plants Database (2005).

Natural Enemies (Back to Top)

Given the opportunity, ornate bella moth larvae are cannibalistic on conspecific eggs (Bogner & Eisner 1991, Hare & Eisner 1995) and pupae (Bogner & Eisner 1992). However, cannibalism of pupae is minimized because larvae migrate off the host plant prior to pupation (Bogner & Eisner 1992).

Predators: All life stages of ornate bella moths are protected from a wide range of predators by the alkaloids sequestered from their host plants. Eggs have been demonstrated to be repellent to the spotted ladybird beetle Coleomegilla maculata DeGeer (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) (Dussourd et al. 1988), the green lacewing Ceraeochrysa cubana (Hagan) (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae) (Eisner et al. 2000),and the cavity-nesting ant, Leptothorax longispinosus Roger (Now Temnothorax longispinosus [Roger]) (Hare & Eisner 1993).

Crotalaria lanceolata and Crotalaria pallida both have extrafloral nectaries that are often visited in the Gainesville, Florida area by aggressive Florida carpenter ants, Camponotus floridanus (Buckley) (Figure 8), and red imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta Buren. Guimarães et al. (2006) reported that Utetheisa ornatrix larvae were repulsed from the racemes of Crotalaria pallida by ants attracted to the extrafloral nectaries but that predation on the larvae was rare.

Adult ornate bella moths are rejected by the wolf spider Lycosa ceratiola Gertsch (Eisner & Eisner 1991, González et al. 1999), the jumping spider Phidippus audax (Hentz) (Eisner & Eisner 1991), and the orb weaving spiders .Trichonephila clavipes (Linnaeus) (Eisner & Eisner 1991, González et al. 1999) and Argiope florida Chamberlin & Ivie (Eisner et al. 2005, Eisner & Meinwald 1995). They are also rejected by at least some vertebrates (e.g., the blue jay, Cyanocitta cristata [Linnaeus], and the Florida scrub jay, Aphelocoma coerulescens [Bosc]), (Eisner & Meinwald 1995), but not by the American toad, Bufo americanus Holbrook, (Now Anaxyrus americanus (Holbrook).

Parasitoids: The pyrrolizidine alkaloids do not always protect ornate bella moths from parasitoids. The eggs are parasitized by the wasp Telenomus sp. (Hymenoptera: Scelionidae) (Bezzerides et al. 2004). Also, the following six species of parasitoids have been reared from Utetheisa ornatrix pupae by Rossini et al. (2000) who reported an overall parasitism rate of 20% and suggested that pupal parasitism may be one of the chief causes of mortality in Utetheisa ornatrix:

Lespesia aletiae (Diptera: Tachinidae)
Lespesia sp. (Diptera: Tachinidae)
Chetogena claripennis (Diptera: Tachinidae)
Archytas aterrimus (Diptera: Tachinidae)
Brachymeria ovata (Hymenoptera: Chalcididae)
Consoncus (undescribed species) (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae)

In laboratory studies (Storey et al. 1991), the pyrrolizidine alkaloids did not protectornate bella moth eggs from infection by the entomopathogenic fungi Beauveria bassiana (Bals. Criv.) Vuill. and Paecilomyces lilacinus Thom (Now: Purpureocillium lilacinum [Thom] ).

Selected References (Back to Top)

  • Bezzerides A, Eisner T. 2002. Apportionment of nuptial alkaloidal gifts by a multiply-mated female moth (Utetheisaornatrix): Eggs individually receive alkaloid from more than one male source. Chemoecology 12: 213-218.
  • Bezzerides A, Yong T-H, Bezzerides J, Husseini J, Ladau J, Eisner M, Eisner T. 2004. Plant-derived pyrrolizidine alkaloid protects eggs of a moth (Utetheisaornatrix) against a parasitoid wasp (Trichogramma ostriniae). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 101: 9029-9032.
  • Bogner F, Eisner T. 1991. Chemical basis of egg cannibalism in a caterpillar (Utetheisaornatrix). Journal of Chemical Ecology 17: 2063-2075.
  • Bogner F, Eisner T. 1992. Chemical basis of pupal cannibalism in a caterpillar (Utetheisaornatrix). Experientia 48: 97-102.
  • Connor WE, Roach B, Benedict E, Meinwald J, Eisner T. 1990. Courtship pheromone production and body size as correlates of larval diets in males of the arctiid moth, Utetheisa ornatrix. Journal of Chemical Ecology 16: 543-552.
  • Connor WE, Eisner T, Vander Meer RK, Guerrero A, Meinwald J. 1981. Precopulatory sexual interaction in an arctiid moth (Utetheisa ornatrix): Role of a pheromone derived from dietary alkaloids. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 9: 227-235.
  • Connor WE, Eisner T, Vander Meer RK, Guerrero A, Ghiringelli D, Meinwald J. 1980. Sex attractant of an arctiid moth (Utetheisa ornatrix): A pulsed chemical signal. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 7: 55-63.
  • Covell CV. 2005. A Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America. Special Publication Number 12. Virginia Museum of Natural History. Martinsville, Virginia. 496 pp.
  • Dussourd DE, Harvis CA, Meinwald J, Eisner T. 1991. Pheromonal advertisement of a nuptial gift by a male moth Utetheisa ornatrix. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 88: 9224-9227.
  • Dussourd DE, Ubik K, Harvis CA, Resch J, Meinwald J, Eisner T. 1988. Biparental defensive endowment of eggs with acquired plant alkaloid in the moth Utetheisa ornatrix. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 85: 5992-5996.
  • Egan AL, Hook KA, Reeve HK, Iyengar VK. 2016. Polyandrous females provide sons with more competitive sperm: Support for the sexy-sperm hypothesis in the rattlebox moth (Utetheisa ornatrix). Evolution 70: 72-81.
  • Eisner T. 2003. Chapter 10. The sweet smell of success. pp. 348-384. In For Love of Insects. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 448 pp.
  • Eisner T, Eisner M. 1991. Unpalatability of the pyrrolizidine alkaloid containing moth, Utetheisa ornatrix, and its larva, to wolf spiders. Psyche 98: 111-118.
  • Eisner T, Eisner M, Rossini C, Iyengar VK, Roach BL, Benedikt E, Meinwald J. 2000. Chemical defense against predation in an insect egg. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 97: 1634-1639.
  • Eisner T, Eisner M, Siegler M. 2005. Chapter 62. pp. 286-291. In Secret Weapons: Defenses of Insects, Spiders, Scorpions, and Other Many-legged Creatures. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 372 pp.
  • Eisner T, Meinwald J. 1995. The chemistry of sexual selection. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA. 92: 50-55.
  • Ferro VG, Guimarães PR, Trigo JR. 2006. Why do larvae of Utetheisa ornatrix penetrate and feed in pods of Crotalaria species? Larval performance vs. chemical and physical constraints. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 121: 23-29.
  • El-Sayed AM 2014. The Pherobase: Database of Insect Pheromones and Semiochemicals. Semiochemicals of Utetheisa ornatrix, the Bella moth (6 March 2016)
  • Forbes WTM. 1960. The Lepidoptera of New York and neighboring states. Part IV. Agaristidae through Nymphalidae, including butterflies. Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station Memoir 329. Ithaca, New York.
  • González A, Rossini C, Eisner M, Eisner T. 1999. Sexually transmitted chemical defense in a moth (=Utetheisa ornatrix). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 96: 5570-5574.
  • Guimarães PR, Raimundo RL, Bottcher C, Silva RR, Trigo JR. 2006. Extrafloral nectaries as a deterrent mechanism against seed predators in the chemically protected weed Crotalaria pallida (Leguminosae). Austral Ecology 31: 776-782.
  • Habeck DH. 1987. Arctiidae (Noctuoidea). The woolybears, tiger moth larvae. pp. 538-542. In Stehr FW. Immature Insects. Vol. 1. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company. Dubuque, Iowa.
  • Hare JF, Eisner T. 1993. Pyrrolizidine alkaloid deters ant predators of Utetheisa ornatrix eggs: effects of alkaloid concentration, oxidation state, and prior exposure of ants to alkaloid-laden prey. Oecologia 96: 9-18.
  • Hare JF, Eisner T. 1995. Cannibalistic caterpillars (Utetheisa ornatrix Lepidoptera: Arctiidae) fail to differentiate between eggs on the basis of kinship. Psyche 102: 27-33.
  • Isley D. 1990.Vascular Flora of the Southeastern United States. Vol. 3, Part 2. Leguminosae (Fabaceae). The University of North Carolina Press. Chapel Hill.
  • Iyengar VK, Eisner T. 1999a. Female choice increases offspring fitness in an arctiid moth (Utetheisa ornatrix). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 96: 15013-15016.
  • Iyengar VK, Eisner T. 1999b. Heritability of body mass, a sexually selected trait in an arctiid moth (Utetheisa ornatrix). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 96: 9169-9171.
  • Iyengar VK, Rossini C, Eisner T. 2001. Precopulatory assessment of male quality in an arctiid moth (Utetheisa ornatrix): Hydroxydanaidal is the only criterion of choice. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 49: 283-288.
  • Jain SC, Doussard DE, Conner WE, Eisner T, Guerrero A, Meinwald J. 1983. Polyene pheromone components from an arctiid moth (Utetheisa ornatrix): Characterization and synthesis. Journal of Organic Chemistry 48: 2266-2270.
  • LaMunyon CW. 1997. Increased fecundity, as a function of multiple mating, in an arctiid moth, Utetheisa ornatrix. Ecological Entomology 22: 69-73.
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  • North American Moth Photographers Group (Utetheisa ornatrix species page). (2016). (29 August 2016)
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  • Robinson GS, Ackery PR, Kitching IJ, Beccaloni GW, Hernández LM. 2010. HOSTS - a Database of the World's Lepidopteran Hostplants. Natural History Museum, London (3 March 2016) Utetheisa ornatrix and Utetheisa bella treated as separate species.
  • Rossini C, Hoebeke ER, Iyengar VK, Conner WE, Eisner M, Eisner T. 2000. Alkaloid content of parasitoids reared from pupae of an alkaloid-sequestering arctiid moth (Utetheisa ornatrix). Entomological News 111: 287-290.
  • Sourakov A. 2015. You are what you eat: native versus exotic Crotalaria species (Fabaceae) as host plants of the ornate bella moth, Utetheisa ornatrix (Lepidoptera: Erebidae: Arctiinae). Journal of Natural History 49: 2397-2415.
  • Storey GK, Aneshanslely DJ, Eisner T. 1991. Parentally provided alkaloid does not protect eggs of Utetheisa ornatrix (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae) against entomopathogenic fungi. Journal of Chemical Ecology 17: 687-693.
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Author: Donald W. Hall, Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida
Photographs: Lary Reeves, and Donald W. Hall, Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida
Web Design: Don Wasik, Jane Medley
Publication Number: EENY-358
Publication Date: October 2005. Latest Revision: August 2016. Reviewed: October 2019.

What Kindom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species Does the Butterfly Belong To?

Butterflies belong to the Kingdom Animalia, the Phylum Arthropoda, the Class Insecta, the Order Lepidoptera and the Sub-order Rhopalocera. The Sub-order Rhopalocera contains three superfamilies, which include skipper butterflies and moths, with the true butterflies belonging to the Papilionoidea superfamily. Beneath this classification are five families of butterflies. Within the families, butterflies are categorized into subfamilies, with each butterfly then falling into a unique genus and species.

The five families of butterflies are the Papilionidae, or swallowtail butterflies the Pieridae, or white and sulfur butterflies the Nymphalidae, or brush-footed butterflies the Lyeacnidae, or little butterflies and the Libytheidae, or snout butterflies. The first four families of butterflies each contain subfamilies into which their butterflies are categorized. The Papilionidae family includes the Parnassian, Swallowtail and Baroniinae subfamilies, which include large and colorful butterflies such as the Swallowtail and Birdwing. The Pieridae family consists of the Sulfurs, Whites, Mimic Sulfurs and Pseudopontiinae subfamilies of butterflies, most of which live in Africa and Asia. The Nymphalidae family of butterflies includes many well-known species such as the Monarch, Emperor, Admiral and Tortoiseshell butterflies. This family is subdivided into nine separate subfamilies. The Lyeacnidae family contains over 6,000 species of butterflies and is divided into the Metalmark, Hairstreak, Copper, Blue, Styginae and Curetinae subfamilies.

Two New Cryptic Species of Australian Sugar Gliders Discovered

A research team led by Charles Darwin University biologists has identified and raised two additional species within what is currently designated as the sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps). The recognition of distinct species is of particular importance given the current climate of biodiversity loss across northern Australia.

The savanna glider (Petaurus ariel). Image credit: Michael Barritt.

The sugar glider, a small, omnivorous, arboreal, and nocturnal marsupial, is the most widespread species of the genus Petaurus, ranging from Tasmania through much of eastern and northern Australia and into New Guinea and several islands of Indonesia.

Its common name refers to its preference for sugary foods such as sap and nectar and its ability to glide through the air, much like a flying squirrel. Its diet also includes pollen, nectar, insects and their larvae, arachnids, and small vertebrates.

“While the discovery of a new mammal species is uncommon and exciting, it also means that the distribution of the sugar glider has been widely overestimated,” said Dr. Teigan Cremona, a researcher in the Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods at Charles Darwin University.

In the current study, Dr. Cremona and colleagues aimed to resolve the taxonomy of Australian gliders currently recognized as Petaurus breviceps.

The scientists examined a 150-year-old specimen from the Natural History Museum, London, more than 300 live and preserved glider specimens from Australian collections.

They found that the sugar glider actually represents three genetically and morphologically distinct species.

These are now formally recognized as the sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps), the savanna glider (Petaurus ariel) and the Kreft’s glider (Petaurus notatus).

“The savanna glider occurs in the woodland savannas of northern Australia and looks a bit like a much smaller version of a squirrel glider with a more pointed nose,” Dr. Cremona said.

“The remaining two species, the sugar glider and the Krefft’s glider, look similar and may co-occur in some areas of south-eastern Australia.”

“Our findings are not only a significant contribution to science but have important conservation implications,” said Professor Sue Carthew, also from the Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods at Charles Darwin University.

“When considered as one species, sugar gliders were considered widespread and abundant, and classified as Least Concern,” Dr. Cremona added.

“The distinction of these three species means a substantially diminished distribution for the sugar glider, making that species vulnerable to large scale habitat destruction.”

The recent bushfires had incinerated quite a large proportion of the species’ current distributional range.

“Given they are hollow-dwellers and require a diverse habitat with a variety of foods, the bushfires have most likely had a devastating effect on this much-loved species,” Dr. Cremona said.

“Our new species from northern Australia, the savanna glider, occurs in a region that is also suffering ongoing small mammal declines,” she added.

The study was published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Teigan Cremona et al. Integrative taxonomic investigation of Petaurus breviceps (Marsupialia: Petauridae) reveals three distinct species. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, published online July 13, 2020 doi: 10.1093/zoolinnean/zlaa060

Dissecting Moth Genitals In the Name of Science

It’s just after sunset, and I’m sitting in a truck amongst the bleached white dunes of New Mexico’s White Sands National Monument, waiting for darkness to fully fall. I’ve ventured here with entomologist Eric Metzler in pursuit of some of the most richly varied creatures that emerge from these dunes: moths.

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Once it’s dark enough, we walk to a series of black lights we have strung to a clothesline to attract the silent flappers. Under the cool purple glow of the setup, I spot our first specimen fluttering toward me on the ground.

“Excellent!” Metzler says, immediately recognizing the species. “That’s whitesandensis, fantastic,” he adds as he hands me a glass vile and cork to collect it.

Metzler has been regularly collecting moths here since 2007 on behalf of the National Park Service. A retired entomologist who still holds adjunct positions at Michigan State University and New Mexico State University, Metzler was thrilled to discover Protogygia whitesandensis — the first native species of moth ever found in White Sands — during the first year of his study. Since then, he has found an astounding 600 species, including more than 50 others entirely new to science that he has catalogued in Smithsonian’s National Collections.

Why a harsh, desolate environment that receives only 10 inches of rain annually and swings between vast temperature extremes would contain such unusual diversity is still a mystery. “That’s an enormously high number, especially considering how barren the landscape is,” Metzler says. And many entomologists aren’t particularly driven to find out why, he adds, given that there are so many more charismatic insects to study.

But Metzler has committed the end of his career to painstakingly dissecting hundreds of moths to better understand their evolution. A self-described “moth evangelist,” Metzler has been captivated by these flittering insects since childhood. He started off collecting butterflies, but transitioned to moths when he got busy with a day job in high school and could only collect at night.

“I discovered there are a great many more moths than butterflies,” he says, still just as fascinated by them at age 72. “I’d never run out of moths.”

Scientists estimate that we know just 20 percent of all moth species in the world, compared to about 90 percent of the estimated 20,000 butterfly species. That’s because there are roughly 30 times more moth species, says Robert Robbins, a curator in the Smithsonian’s entomology department who studies butterfly evolution. Robbins also agrees that we know less about moths than butterflies simply because they’re not as appealing.

“Generally the image of moths is they’re hairy and eat your wool sweaters,” says Robbins.

Metzler sets up lights and a white sheet to attract moths for collection. (Laura Poppick) White Sands National Monument is comprised of 275 square miles of gypsum dunes, making it the largest gypsum dune field in the world and an extreme environment for any animal to make its home. (Laura Poppick) Metzler has discovered more than 600 species of moths in White Sands National Monument since 2007. (Laura Poppick) The best way to tell two moth species apart is by dissecting their genitalia. Above are the male genitalia of Protogygia whitesandensis, a species endemic to White Sands. The aedeagus, on the right, transfers sperm to the female. (Eric Metzler) Metzler captures moths in vials and stores them on ice until he can analyze them in his laboratory. (Laura Poppick)

To the untrained eye, many White Sands moths look exactly the same: roughly one-inch wingspan, with fluffy gray bodies and wings the distinct white color of the gypsum dunes. Yet to the expert eye, there are distinctions. To parse them, Metzler relies on molecular analyses to separate out the moths’ DNA. But he also uses the tried-and-true method of dissecting moth genitalia—tedious, but the best way to visually distinguish species apart.

Through this work, Metzler has come to believe that White Sands could have the highest diversity of native moths in the country, on par with rates of diversity found in other animals on the Galapagos Islands.

Robbins says Metzler’s close analysis of White Sands could contribute to our limited understanding of moth evolution. Since moths and butterflies don’t preserve well as fossils, scientists don’t have a good sense of what a “normal” rate of evolution should be. But we know the dunes of White Sands formed within the last 10,000 years, which means all of the moths endemic this region may have evolved within that timespan too.

“If all these species could evolve in 10,000 years, that’s pretty amazing,” says Robbins.

To unravel this phenomenon, Metzler spends countless hours sitting over the microscope at his home laboratory in Alamogordo, a half hour drive from White Sands. (To his appreciation, his wife Pat doesn’t mind the thousands of moths he stores in freezers in his garage and kitchen.) When I join him in his lab, he shows me a female moth the size of a toenail clipping pinned to a board, and hands me a slide containing that species’ genitals.

All I see is a stained smudge. “There’s actually something to that smudge when it is magnified enough,” Metzler says as he swings around his chair and arranges the slide under the microscope. When I look at it under 40x magnification, the smudge appears as a delicate jellyfish-shaped organ called a corpus bursa—the sack where the female collects sperm. “When you look at it under the microscope, it’s very attractive,” Metzler says. I have to agree.

If all goes well, Metzler can prepare a slide of moth genitalia in one day. First, he breaks off the abdomen and soaks it in potassium hydroxide, an ingredient in Drano. This dissolves all of the soft tissue, which he swipes away with a paintbrush leaving only the exoskeleton and genital organs behind—the only parts made of the hard material called chitin, the same stuff found in human fingernails and hair.

Once everything is clearly laid out and stained on slides, he looks to see if the organs from a male and female match by “lock and key,” meaning they’re from the same species. But this isn’t always discernible to human eyes. When he can’t identify a species just by looking at its organ or wing pattern, he consults his library and sends pictures to colleagues. If he’s still stumped, he sends a leg sample to the University of Guelph in Ontario—the largest moth repository in North America—for molecular analysis.

Entomologists don’t agree on what defines a distinct moth species, says Robbins, and some argue that Metzler’s moths aren’t all distinct. But by widely accepted standards of having different genitalia and molecular barcodes, he says, the 600 different White Sands moths do stand up as distinct species. “By normal standards these are distinct species and it’s not something anyone anticipated before [Metzler] moved down there,” says Robbins.

James Mallet, an entomologist at Harvard University who studies butterfly evolution and speciation, wonders if similar rates of endemism would be found elsewhere if the same type of long term study were conducted. “There are relatively few entomologists and relatively large areas in the United States to study,” he points out.

But Mallet notes that White Sands contains plant species that have been decimated by grazing and development elsewhere in the Southwest, making it a particularly valuable place to explore for new species and species associations. “I think it’s fantastic that they are studying this area, it deserves to be studied,” Mallet says.

Which makes it even more remarkable that, had Metzler not decided to retire to southern New Mexico, the moths likely would have gone undiscovered. As Robbins puts it: “We’re talking about just an incredible discovery made just purely by chance."

About Laura Poppick

Laura is a freelance writer based in Portland, Maine and a regular contributor to the Science section.

Watch the video: SPECIES of the AMAZING MOTHS with Name (May 2022).