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Moths comprise a group of insects related to butterflies, belonging to the order Lepidoptera. Most lepidopterans are moths, and there are thought to be approximately 160,000 species of moth,[1] many of which are yet to be described. Most species of moth are nocturnal, but there are also crepuscular and diurnal species.

Contents

1 Differences between butterflies and moths 2 Etymology 3 Caterpillar 4 History 5 Economics

5.1 Significance to humans 5.2 Predators and parasites

6 Attraction to light 7 Notable moths 8 Gallery 9 See also 10 References 11 External links

Differences between butterflies and moths[edit] Main article: Comparison of butterflies and moths While the butterflies form a monophyletic group, the moths, comprising the rest of the Lepidoptera, do not. Many attempts have been made to group the superfamilies of the Lepidoptera
Lepidoptera
into natural groups, most of which fail because one of the two groups is not monophyletic: Microlepidoptera
Microlepidoptera
and Macrolepidoptera, Heterocera
Heterocera
and Rhopalocera, Jugatae and Frenatae, Monotrysia
Monotrysia
and Ditrysia.[2] Although the rules for distinguishing moths from butterflies are not well established, one very good guiding principle is that butterflies have thin antennae and (with the exception of the Hedylidae
Hedylidae
family) have small balls or clubs at the end of their antennae. Moth
Moth
antennae can be quite varied in appearance, but in particular lack the club end. The divisions are named by this principle: "club-antennae" (Rhopalocera) or "varied-antennae" (Heterocera). Etymology[edit] The modern English word "moth" comes from Old English
Old English
"moððe" (cf. Northumbrian "mohðe") from Common Germanic
Common Germanic
(compare Old Norse "motti", Dutch "mot", and German "motte" all meaning "moth"). Its origins are possibly related to the Old English
Old English
"maða" meaning "maggot" or from the root of "midge" which until the sixteenth century was used mostly to indicate the larva, usually in reference to devouring clothes. Caterpillar[edit]

Poplar hawk-moth caterpillar Laothoe populi

Moth
Moth
larvae, or caterpillars, make cocoons from which they emerge as fully grown moths with wings. Some moth caterpillars dig holes in the ground, where they live until they are ready to turn into adult moths.[3]

Moth
Moth
larva from India

History[edit] Moths evolved long before butterflies, with fossils having been found that may be 190 million years old. Both types of lepidoptera are thought to have evolved along with flowering plants, mainly because most modern species feed on flowering plants, both as adults and larvae. One of the earliest species thought to be a moth-ancestor is Archaeolepis mane, whose fossil fragments show scaled wings similar to caddisflies in their veining.[4]

Moth
Moth
from Kerala, India

Economics[edit] Significance to humans[edit]

An adult male pine processionary moth (Thaumetopoea pityocampa). This species is a serious forest pest when in larval state. Notice the bristle springing from the underside of the hindwing (frenulum) and running forward to be held in a small catch of the forewing, whose function is to link the wings together.

Some moths, particularly their caterpillars, can be major agricultural pests in many parts of the world. Examples include corn borers and bollworms.[5] The caterpillar of the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) causes severe damage to forests in the northeastern United States, where it is an invasive species. In temperate climates, the codling moth causes extensive damage, especially to fruit farms. In tropical and subtropical climates, the diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) is perhaps the most serious pest of brassicaceous crops. Also in sub-Saharan Africa, the African sugarcane borer is a major pest of sugarcane, maize, and sorghum.[6] Several moths in the family Tineidae
Tineidae
are commonly regarded as pests because their larvae eat fabric such as clothes and blankets made from natural proteinaceous fibers such as wool or silk.[7] They are less likely to eat mixed materials containing some artificial fibers. There are some reports that they may be repelled by the scent of wood from juniper and cedar, by lavender, or by other natural oils; however, many consider this unlikely to prevent infestation. Naphthalene
Naphthalene
(the chemical used in mothballs) is considered more effective, but there are concerns over its effects on human health. Moth
Moth
larvae may be killed by freezing the items which they infest for several days at a temperature below −8 °C (18 °F).[8] Despite being notorious for eating clothing, most moth adults do not eat at all. Many, like the Luna, Polyphemus, Atlas, Promethea, cecropia, and other large moths do not have mouth parts. While there are many species of adult moths that do eat, there are many that will drink nectar.[7] Some moths are farmed for their economic value. The most notable of these is the silkworm, the larva of the domesticated moth Bombyx mori. It is farmed for the silk with which it builds its cocoon. As of 2002[update], the silk industry produces more than 130 million kilograms of raw silk, worth about 250 million U.S. dollars, each year.[9][10][11] Not all silk is produced by Bombyx mori. There are several species of Saturniidae
Saturniidae
that also are farmed for their silk, such as the Ailanthus moth ( Samia cynthia
Samia cynthia
group of species), the Chinese oak silkmoth (Antheraea pernyi), the Assam silkmoth (Antheraea assamensis), and the Japanese silk moth (Antheraea yamamai). The larvae of many species are used as food, particularly in Africa, where they are an important source of nutrition. The mopane worm, the caterpillar of Gonimbrasia belina, from the family Saturniidae, is a significant food resource in southern Africa. Another saturniid used as food is the cavorting emperor (Usta terpsichore). In one country alone, Congo, more than 30 species of moth larvae are harvested. Some are sold not only in the local village markets, but are shipped by the ton from one country to another.[12] Predators and parasites[edit]

Tomato Hornworm parasitized by braconid wasps

Nocturnal
Nocturnal
insectivores often feed on moths; these include some bats, some species of owls and other species of birds. Moths also are eaten by some species of lizards, cats, dogs, rodents, and some bears. Moth larvae are vulnerable to being parasitized by Ichneumonidae. Baculoviruses are parasite double-stranded DNA insect viruses that are used mostly as biological control agents. They are members of the Baculoviridae, a family that is restricted to insects. Most baculovirus isolates have been obtained from insects, in particular from Lepidoptera. There is evidence that ultrasound in the range emitted by bats causes flying moths to make evasive maneuvers because bats eat moths. Ultrasonic frequencies trigger a reflex action in the noctuid moth that causes it to drop a few inches in its flight to evade attack.[13] Tiger moths also emit clicks which can foil bats' echolocation.[14][15] Attraction to light[edit]

Assorted moths in the University of Texas Insect
Insect
Collection

Moths frequently appear to circle artificial lights, although the reason for this behavior remains unknown. One hypothesis to explain this behavior is that moths use a technique of celestial navigation called transverse orientation. By maintaining a constant angular relationship to a bright celestial light, such as the moon, they can fly in a straight line. Celestial objects are so far away that, even after travelling great distances, the change in angle between the moth and the light source is negligible; further, the moon will always be in the upper part of the visual field, or on the horizon. When a moth encounters a much closer artificial light and uses it for navigation, the angle changes noticeably after only a short distance, in addition to being often below the horizon. The moth instinctively attempts to correct by turning toward the light, thereby causing airborne moths to come plummeting downward, and resulting in a spiral flight path that gets closer and closer to the light source.[16] Notable moths[edit]

Atlas moth (Attacus atlas), the largest moth in the world White witch moth (Thysania agrippina), the Lepidopteran with the longest wingspan Madagascan sunset moth (Chrysiridia rhipheus), considered to be one of the most impressive and beautiful Lepidoptera[17] Death's-head hawkmoth
Death's-head hawkmoth
(Acherontia spp.), is associated with the supernatural and evil and has been featured in art and movies Peppered moth
Peppered moth
(Biston betularia), the subject of a well-known study in natural selection Luna moth (Actias luna) Grease moth
Grease moth
(Aglossa cuprina), known to have fed on the rendered fat of humans[18] Emperor gum moth (Opodiphthera eucalypti) Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) Bogong moth
Bogong moth
(Agrotis infusa), known to have been a food source for southeastern indigenous Australians Ornate moth
Ornate moth
(Utetheisa ornatrix), the subject of numerous behavioral studies regarding sexual selection

Moths of economic significance

Gypsy moth
Gypsy moth
(Lymantria dispar), an invasive species pest of hardwood trees in North America Winter moth (Operophtera brumata), an invasive species pest of hardwood trees, cranberry and blueberry in northeastern North America Corn earworm or cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa zea), a major agricultural pest Indianmeal moth
Indianmeal moth
(Plodia interpunctella), a major pest of grain and flour Codling moth
Codling moth
(Cydia pomonella), a pest mostly of apple, pear and walnut trees Light brown apple moth
Light brown apple moth
(Epiphyas postvittana), a highly polyphagous pest Silkworm
Silkworm
(Bombyx mori), for its silk Wax moths (Galleria mellonella, Achroia grisella), pests of bee hives Duponchelia fovealis, a new invasive pest of vegetables and ornamental plants in the United States

Gallery[edit]

Diagram of a Plume moth
Plume moth
from Robert Hooke's Micrographia

Leaf-shaped moth

Giant grey moth

Moth
Moth
in India

Six-spot burnet moths mating (Zygaena filipendulae)

Protective silk (or similar material) case (cocoon).

A caterpillar of death's-head hawkmoth

Mating pair of Laothoe populi, or poplar hawkmoths, showing two different color variants.

White-Lined Sphinx moth in Colorado, United States

Closeup of a common clothes moth

Giant silk moth

Adult emperor moth

See also[edit]

Baculovirus Butterfly Clothing moth Comparison of butterflies and moths Lepidoptera List of moths Lepidopterism Pollination

References[edit]

^ "Moths". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2012-01-12.  ^ Scoble, MJ 1995. The Lepidoptera: Form, function and diversity. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; 404 p. ^ Darby, Gene (1958). What is a Butterfly. Chicago: Benefic Press. p. 41.  ^ Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center Evolution of Moths and Butterflies Archived 2014-01-06 at the Wayback Machine. Studying the evolution of butterflies and moths is challenging, since fossils are so rare. But the few Lepidopteran fossils that exist, captured in amber or compressed in fine-grained rocks, show great detail. The earliest Lepidopteran fossils appear in rocks that are about 190 million years old. These tiny fragments of scaled wings and bodies clearly indicate that moths evolved before butterflies. ^ The First Decade of Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States Archived 2010-06-22 at WebCite. USDA. ^ Conlong, D. E. (1994-02-01). "A review and perspectives for the biological control of the African sugarcane stalkborer Eldana saccharina Walker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae)". Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. 48 (1): 9–17. doi:10.1016/0167-8809(94)90070-1. ^ a b Scott, Thomas (1995). Concise Encyclopedia Biology. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-010661-2. ^ Choe, D.-H. " Clothes
Clothes
Moths" in How to Manage Pests: Pests of Homes, Structures, People, and Pets. University of California ^ "Table 74. Raw silk: production (including waste)". Food and Agriculture
Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved 2008-10-02. Table lists worldwide raw silk production 132,400 metric tonnes in 2002  ^ " Silk
Silk
Exchanges of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh". Central Silk Board of India. Archived from the original on March 7, 2007.  gives silk prices in rupees. Exchange rate is about 50 RS to dollar. ^ " Silk
Silk
Worm Farming". Vegan Society. Archived from the original on June 19, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-02. World Raw Silk
Silk
Production in 1996 is listed as 83,670 metric tonnes  ^ "Some Edible Species". Food-Insects.com. Archived from the original on 2014-11-07.  ^ Jones, G; D A Waters (2000). " Moth
Moth
hearing in response to bat echolocation calls manipulated independently in time and frequency". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 267 (1453): 1627–32. doi:10.1098/rspb.2000.1188. PMC 1690724 . PMID 11467425.  ^ Kaplan, Matt (July 17, 2009) Moths Jam Bat
Bat
Sonar, Throw the Predators Off Course. National Geographic News ^ Some Moths Escape Bats By Jamming Sonar (video). npr.org. July 17, 2009. ^ "Why Are Moths Attracted to Flame?". npr.org. August 18, 2007.  ^ Tait, Malcolm (2006). Animal
Animal
Tragic: Popular Misconceptions of Wildlife Through the Centuries. Think Books. p. 38. ISBN 1-84525-015-X.  ^ Brundage, Adrienne (March 23, 2009), Other Arthropods of Forensic Importance, Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University Forensic Entomology Lecture

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lepidoptera.

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