Charles Henry Fernald.

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3 371 am









July 30, 1898.









July 30, 1898.





... .c.^ ...~,_^, DEFT*


The species of moths taken up in this work are known by the
common names of plume-moths and feather-wings. They have
been studied but very little, and our knowledge of the early stages
and habits of a large proportion of our native American species is
very imperfect, but it is hoped that our entomologists will give
more attention to them hereafter.


The Pterophoridae are distributed very widely over the globe,
but appear to be most numerous in the temperate regions, par-
ticularly in Europe, North America and Australia ; yet, when
other parts of the globe have been as carefully explored, it is
probable that many additional species will be discovered, and that
they may be more evenly distributed than at present appears to be
the case.


I am indebted to Mr. S. H. Scudder, our highest authority on
fossil insects, for the information that no Pterophoridae have yet
been recognized among the fossils, not even in amber.


A few species of the Pterophoridae are injurious to plants of
economic importance, and the larvae of several others feed on
plants raised for ornamental purposes or for flowers.


While it is probable that the species of this family are preyed
upon not only by insect enemies but also by birds, yet I have
been able to find but few recorded observations with regard to
them. Ashmead has described Pimpla pterophori and Limneria
pterophorce from Pterophorids in California, and the latter species
has also been taken in Texas. Prof. Kellicott bred Ichneumon
humilis Prov. from Platyptilia carduidactyla.



Linnaeus, in the tenth edition of his " Systema Naturae," Vol.
1, page 542, published in 1758, established the genus Alucita for
the plume-moths with the following six species under it in order :
monodactyla, didactyla, tridactyla, tetradactyla, pentadactyla and
hexadactyla, all placed under the heading ALUCIT^E. Some of
these insects had been figured and described more or less fully by
authors previous to the time of Linnaeus, as Aldrovandus, 1602;
Madam Merian, 1679; Petiver, 1702; Ray, 1710; Frisch, 1721;
Reaumur, 1736; and Rosel, 1746; but, as Linnaeus in the above
work first consistently used the binomial nomenclature, it has
been decided almost universally by zoologists to adopt this edi-
tion of the " Systema Naturae" as the starting-point in zoological

In 1761, Poda published his " Insecta Musei Graecencis," in
which, on page 94, he adopted the generic name Alucita with
pentadactyla L. the only species under it, and this species is there-
fore regarded as the type of the genus Alucita by Lord Walsing-
ham and other eminent authorities. Geoffroy, in 1762, published
the first edition of his " Histoire abrge des Insectes," in two
volumes. In the second volume this author, rejecting the genus
Alucita of Linnaeus, established the genus Pterophorus, a name
which he stated was given to these insects by some naturalist in
former times, and placed under it pentadactyla L. didactyla L. and
hexadactyla L. From his description of didactyla, there can be no
doubt that, instead of this species, he had monodactyla L. before
him, and therefore we must consider didactyla Geoff, the same as
monodactyla L. As Poda had already used pentadactyla as the
type of Alucita, only the species monodactyla L. and hexadactyla
L. could be considered as belonging under Pterophorus.

Scopoli, in his " Entomologia Carniolica," published in 1762,
gives five species of plume-moths under Phalaena, which he ap-
pears to have used in a generic sense. In 1775, Fabricius, in his
" Systema Entomologiae," page 667, very improperly made use of
the genus Alucita for xylostella L. and nineteen other Tineids, and
followed Geoff roy in using Pterophorus for the plume- moths.
This use of these generic names he continued through all his
writings. The authors of the *' Systematische Verzeichniss der
Schmetterlinge der Wienergegend," 1776, page 144, adopted the
genus Alucita in the strict Linnaean sense.

Latreille, in his " Precis des Caracteres generique des Insectes,"

published in 1796, page 148, separated hexadactyla from the group
and established for it the genus Orneodes, but retained the rest of
the plume-moths under Pterophorus. Latreille repeated this use
of these generic names in his l i Histoire naturelle des Crustaces et
Insectes," Vol. XIV., page 255 (1805), and used the generic name
Alucita in the Fabrician sense. This action of Latreille in remov-
ing hexadactylus from Pterophorus left only the species monodacty-
lus L. under it which must now be regarded as the type, while
Orneodes must be recognized with hexadactyla L. as the type.

In 1806, Hiibner published his " Tentameu," in which these in-
sects are placed in Phalanx 9 ; Alucitae, in Tribus 1 : indubitate.
There are two divisions under this, the first of which is Ptero-
phorse with Pterophora pentadactyla, and the second is Ripidophorae
with Ripidophora hexadactyla. The "Tentamen" has caused a
great deal of controversy as to whether it was a true publication,
and whether its generic names should be recognized. No question
can arise in case of the plume-moths, as Poda had long before
adopted pentadactyla as the type of Alucita, and Latreille had
very properly separated hexadactyla from the group and estab-
lished for it the genus Orneodes. Schrank, in the second part of
Vol. II. of his "Fauna Boica" (1802), page 139, adopted the
Linnsean genus Alucita for these insects.

In 1811, Haworth published the third part of his " Lepidoptera
Britannica," in which he adopted the genus Alucita in the Liunaean
sense for the plume-moths. In 1815, Leach published his article
" Entomology " in the "Edinburgh Encyclopaedia," in which,
under Tribe VII, Alucitides, the genus Pterophorus Geoff, is
adopted with pentadactylus and didactylus under it, and the genus
Alucita with hexadactyla under it. In 1819, Samouelle published
his "Entomologist's Useful Compendium," in which he adopted
the classification of Leach.

Hiibner, in his " Verzeichniss bekannter Schmetterlinge,"
adopted the term Alucitae for his ninth phalanx, the plume-
moths. This part of the "Verzeichniss" was published between
Aug. 27, 1825, and the time of Hiibuer's death, which occurred
Sept. 13, 1826. This author divided these insects into three
tribes : the first including those with unfissured wings, for which
he established the genus Agdistis ; the second with those having
one fissure in the fore wings and two in the hind wings. This
tribe was further divided into two families, each containing two
genera. The first family, Obtusae, contained the genera Platyptilia
and Amblyptilia, and the second family, Cuspides, contained the


genera Stenoptilia and Aciptilia. The third tribe included those
species in which each wing is divided into six parts, and these
were all placed under the genus Euchiradia, which is of course
synonymous with Orneodes.

In 1827, Curtis published Vol. IV. of his " British Entomology/'
in which he adopted the genus Pterophorus and names pentadactyla
L. as the type. In Vol. X. of the same work (1833), he estab-
lished the genus Adactylus with adactyla Hub. for the type. In
Vol. XV., published in 1838, he adopted the genus Alucita and
named hexadactyla as the type. Curtis, in 1829, in his "Guide
to an arrangement of the British insects," had taken the genus
Adactylus for the species with undivided wings, Alucita for ' ' hex-
adactyla and its allies " and Pterophorus for the remainder. In
the same year Stephens published his "Catalogue of British in-
sects," in which he adopted the genus Agdistis Hub. for the species
with undivided wings, and Pterophorus and Alucita in the same
sense as Curtis had used them. This same classification was
used by Stephens in 1834, in his "Illustrations of British En-

Treitschke, in Vol. IX., Part 2, of his " Schmetterlinge von
Europa," published in 1833, adopted the generic name Alucita for
the species placed by Stephens under Agdistis and Pterophorus,
while he used Orneodes for hexadactylus and its allies. In 1836,
Duponchel, in his " Histoire naturelle des Lepidopteres," Vol. IX.,
adopted the classification of Latreille, but in his " Catalogue
Methodique," published in 1844, he used the genus Adactyla Zell.
for hubneri Curt., Orneodes, for hexadactyla and its allies, and
Pterophorus for the remaining species. West wood, in Vol. I. of
his "Classification of insects," page 115, published in 1839,
adopted the classification of Stephens.

Zeller, in 1841, published his monograph of the plume-moths
in " Isis," Vol. X. This author adopted the name Pterophoridcz
for the group, and divided them into the Pterophoridce proprii, and
Alucitina. Under the first division he established the genus Adac-
tyla, apparently unconscious of the fact that Curtis had already
used the same name. Under this same division Zeller adopted the
genus Pterophorus Geoff., which he divided into groups or sub-
genera as follows: Platyptilus (Platyptilia Hiib.), Oxyptilus (Am-
Uyptilia Hiib. ) , Pterophorus (Stenoptilia Hub.) , Aciptilus (Aciptilia
Hiib.). The division Alucitina contained the genus Alucita with
hexadactyla and allies under it. In 1852, Zeller published his
*' Revision of the Pterophoridae " in " Linnaea Entomologia," Vol.

VI., page 319, in which he sinks his genus Adactyla and aflopts
Hiibner's Agdistis^ and establishes the genus Deuterocopns for the
species tengstro&mi of Java.

In 1840, Zetterstedt, in his " Insecta Laponica," placed all his
plume-moths under the genus Alucita, but in a note refers to Or-
neodes hexadactyla indicating his adoption of this generic name.
Herrich-Schseffer, in his " Schmetterlinge von Europa," Vol. V.,
published in 1853-55, follows the classification of Zeller. Stain-
ton, in his "Manual of British Butterflies and Moths" (1859),
adopted the generic name Adactyla for bennetii, Pteropltoms for
rliododactylus and its allies and Alucita for polydactyla.

In 1859, Wallengren published his work on the Scandinavian
plume-moths, which, like Zeller's works, marked an era in the
classification of these insects. Wallengren followed Zeller in
dividing them into the Pterophoridce and Alucitina, unddr the first
of which he established four new genera, and used, in addition to
these, five genera established by earlier authors. Under Alucitina
he adopted the genus Alucita for hexadactyla.

In 1864, Walker published Part 30 of his "List of the Lepi-
dopterous Insects in the British Museum," in which he refers to
all the described species of the plume-moths, and added thirty-
five new species and two new genera founded on new species from
Ega, South America. In this work Walker followed the classifi-
cation of Zeller.

In 1869, Dr. Jordan, in the "Entomologist's Monthly Maga-
zine," Vol. VI., pages 119 and 149, gave a review of Wallengren's
work, referred to above, which contains valuable information.
Mr. South has given a most interesting and valuable series of
illustrated papers on the early stages, habits and food plants of
the British plume-moths in the " Entomologist," Vol. XIV. and
following volumes. Tutt's "Monograph of the Pterophorina of
Britain " is also a valuable paper on the British plume-moths. In
1877, Dr. Wocke, in "Die Schmetterlinge Deutschlands und der
Schweiz," Vol. II., Part 2, followed very closely the classification
of Wallengren. In 1886, Leech, in his British Pyralides," in-
cluding the Pterophoridse published in 1886, uses the super- family
Pterophori with the families Pterophoridce and Alucitida* under it.

Meyrick, in his paper " On the Classification of the Pyralidina
of the European Fauna," published in 1890, in the " Transactions
of the Entomological Society of London," placed these insects as
families under the super-family Pyralidina. Mr. Meyrick had
already made critical studies on these insects in his researches on


the Lepidoptera of Australia and New Zealand, and in the paper
ajbove referred to he gave most excellent characters to the families
and genera. He adopted the family names Pterophoridce and Or-
neodidce with the genus Orneodes under the last for hexadactyla
and its allies. In his "Handbook of British Lepidoptera"
(1895), Meyrick retains substantially the same classification.
The latest and one of the most valuable works that I have seen
is "Die deutschen Pterophoriden " by Dr. O. Hofmann (1895).
In this work we are given for the first time a very good account
of the genitalia, and all stages are described in full so far as

The first writer on the North American plume-moths, so far
as I am able to learn, was Fitch, in his first " Report on the In-
sects of New York," page 145 (1856), where he published eight
species, pkicing them under the genus Pterophorus. In 1864,
Walker published two species from this country under the same
genus, in the " Catalogue of the Lepidoptera Heterocera," Part 30,
page 940. In 1869, Riley, in his first " Report on the Insects of
Missouri," published one new species and gave a more complete
description of one of the species of Fitch. In 1873, Packard
described three species from California under the genus Ptero-
phorus, in the "Annals of the Lyceum of Natural History," Vol.
X., page 265. In the same year Zeller, in his "Beitrage," de-
scribed six new species of the North American plume-moths, and
in the same paper established a new genus (Scoptonoma) with two
new species from Texas. This genus, however, proved to be the
same as Lineodes of G-uenee, a Pyralid genus. The next year
Zeller described his Leioptilus Mathewianus in his "Lepidoptera
der Westkuste Amerika's," page 23. Chambers published Ptero-
phorus lacteodactylus in the "Canadian Entomologist," Vol. V.,
page 265 (1873).

The most important contribution to our knowledge of the North
American species of these insects was given by Lord Walsingham
in his " Pterophoridse of California and Oregon," published in

1880. This work contains full descriptions of forty-one species,
'many of them here published for the first time, and all of the
species are illustrated in 'colors. Lord Walsingham was so gener-
ous as to give me co-types of nearly all of his species. In this
same year Miss Murtf eldt described two new species with their early
stages in the "American Entomologist," Vol. III., page 235. In

1881, Mr. Charles Fish described ten species of these moths in the
"Canadian Entomologist," Vol. XIII., pages 70 and 140. This

gentleman made extensive studies of the Pterophoridae, and se-
cured the types of Fitch's species and all of his notes on them ;
but, having abandoned the work because of other engagements, I
obtained his entire collection of these insects, including all of his
own types as well as those of Fitch. Valuable notes by other
writers have also been made, which will be referred to under the
various species on following pages.



The Pterophoridae are small, slim insects, with long, slender
lugs and long, narrow fore wings, cut by a fissure extending in
from the middle of the outer margin between veins 4 and 7, from
a fourth to one-half of the length of the wing (plates II. and III.).
The parts on each side of the fissure are called lobes, the anterior
one being called the first lobe and the other the second lobe. In
some of the genera these lobes are narrow and pointed, while in
others they are well developed and present two well-marked angles
on each, which are called the apex and anal angle (Plate II., fig.
1 ) . The normal number of veins in the fore wings is twelve, but
this number is reduced in many of the species. Vein 1 is feebly
forked at the base, at least in some of the species, and the cross
vein and veins 5 and 6 are very weak, often entirely visible ; 5
and 6 at equal distances from each other and from 4 and 7, ex-
tending to the fissure which ends between them. Veins 8 and 9
are stalked and 10 sometimes arises from the same stalk, but is
occasionally wanting.

The hind wings have two fissures, the first extending in from
the outer margin between veins 4 and 7 to about the middle of the
wing ; the second, between the inner margin veins and vein 2,
extends to about the basal fourth. These divisions are called
feathers, the anterior one being called the first feather, the middle
one the second feather and the posterior one the third feather
(Plate II., fig. 2).

The first feather in some species is somewhat spoon-shaped,
rounded at the outer end, widest near the middle and narrower
near the base. The costal vein bends down near the middle of its
course, approaching very near to the subcostal. The costal vein
ends in the costa when this feather tapers gradually to a point and
vein 7 ends in the point. When this feather is broad at the outer
end and has two angles corresponding to the apex and anal angle,
the costal vein usually ends in the apex and vein 7 in the anal


angle. The frenulum is single in the male and divided in the

The second feather in some species is widest towards the outer
end, which is very oblique, but in others it is of the same form as
the third feather. The median vein runs into this feather, giving
off vein 2 which ends in the hind margin, vein 3 which ends in the
anal angle of this feather and vein 4 which ends in the apex. In
the narrow, tapering forms vein 4 is wanting and 3 runs to the
end of the feather. The cross vein and also veins 5 and 6 are
exceedingly fine and scarcely visible under the mosl^ favorable

The third feather tapers gradually to the more or less blunt
outer end, but in some species it has a very obtuse and rounded
angle on its hind margin, which represents the anal angle of the
wing (Plate II., fig. 2). This feather has a strong vein running
through the middle to the end, which is undoubtedly vein Ib. In
some species a weak vein may be seen above lying very near the
edge of the feather, and in others a shorter vein below running to
the hind margin of the feather a little beyond the anal angle.
This, without doubt, is vein la, and therefore the three internal
veins are represented in the Pterophoridse, but all three do not
occur in any one species.

The fringes are long and arranged along both sides of the
feathers, giving them a strong resemblance to the feathers of a
bird, thus making more complete organs of flight. In some
species there are clusters of dark spatulate scales in the hind
fringe of the third feather, and similar scales occur along the
median vein on the under side of the wing. The basal part of
the median vein on the upper side of the hind wings is not pro-
vided with a row of fine hairs, as in some families of moths.

The head is of medium size, with the front smooth and vertical
in some species but more or less conical in others. The labial
palpi are either porrect or curved upward and closely scaled, or
more or less bushy. The maxillary palpi are entirely wanting.
The proboscis is about as long as the head and thorax, and not
clothed with scales at the base. The eyes are nearly hemispher-
ical, naked and without lashes or cilia. The ocelli are absent.
The scales of the head lie smooth over the surface, giving it an
even appearance ; but in some species they form a more or less
cone-shaped tuft, extending forward from the front. The antennae
are fine filiform, and about two- thirds as long as the costa of the
fore wings. The basal segment is much larger than those beyond,


and covered with scales which sometimes form a pointed tuft at
the end. The remaining segments are finely ciliated, those in the
males being stronger than in the females.

The thorax is of medium size, and its covering of scales smooth
without any indication of tufts or other characters. The tegulae
are of medium length, without long scales, hairs or other unusual
characters. The abdomen is long and slim, of nearly uniform size
throughout in the male, but somewhat fusiform in the female.
The genitalia of the male consist of a pair of long, comparatively
thin and broad exserted claspers and a prominent uncus.

The legs are long and slim with cylindrical segments, except the
femora, which are somewhat compressed. The coxae are about as
long as the thorax and stouter than the remaining segments of the
legs. The fore tibiae have a tibial epiphysis on the inside near the
end, the middle tibiae have a pair of unequal spurs at the end,
while the hind tibiae have a pair of unequal spurs at the end and a
similar pair at the outer third. The tarsi consist of five segments
with a pair of claws at the end. There are no spines on any of
the segments of the legs, but they are covered by scales that lie
smooth and close to the surface. In some species, however, the
scales are raised, forming an enlarged ring around the middle and
hind legs at the base of the spurs, and a similar ring occurs around
the end of the fore tibiae. In one species (monodactylus) there is
a small tuft of scales on the hind tibiae, opposite and within the
middle spurs (Plate I., figs. 11, 12). This character is very use-
ful in determining this exceedingly variable and common species.

The ground color of the Pterophoridae is generally white, yellow-
ish white or some shade of brown, occasionally without darker
markings, though the fore wings most frequently have a dark tri-
angular spot resting on the costa and extending down to a point
just within the end of the fissure. One or two light lines cross the
lobes obliquely, and there is a dark spot on the cell a little before
the middle of the wing and another on the fold still nearer the base
of the wing. The hind wings are of one uniform color, and seldom
have spots or lines of other colors.


The usual time of flight is on warm, calm evenings, when they
are occasionally attracted to light and rarely to sugar. They may,
however, be easily u flushed" in the day time from the shrubbery,
when they fly a short distance and alight. When at rest they hold
their wings nearly horizontal and at right angles with the body,


but the feathers of the hind wings are folded over each other and
drawn under the fore wings.


I am not aware that anything is known of the egg-stage of any
of our North American plume-moths, and if any thing has been
published on this stage, I have overlooked it. In the European
species, so far as I have seen any descriptions, they are more or
less oval in outline, smooth and of a pale-green color.

The larvae are short and stout, pale green, with longitudinal
stripes of other colors in some species, and one or more coarse or
fine hairs arise from tubercles on the segments. The pupae are
formed above ground, and attached by the anal extremity. Some
species are hairy, while others are naked ; and they sometimes
have a pair of prominent tubercles arising from the back.

It is not known positively whether any of our North American
species have more than one generation in a season ; but so little
is known about them that we cannot speak with any certainty on
this point. Acantlwdactyla and monodactyla are said to have two
generations in a year in Europe, and very likely this is true here,
at least in some parts of the country.


Linnaeus placed these insects at the end of the Lepidoptera,
after the Tineina, and he was followed by later writers till a little
more than twenty-five years ago, when it began to dawn upon
those who were working upon these insects that they were out of
place. At first the matter was talked over, but it was some time
before any one seemed to be willing to express such an apparent
heterodox opinion in print. Dr. Jordan, however, in 1869 (Ent.
Mon. Mag., Vol. VI., p. 152), expressed the opinion that these
insects form " an aberrant group of the Pyralidae." A few years
ago, entomologists, both in this country and England, in making
critical studies on the early stages as well as on -the imago of the
Lepidoptera, quite revolutionized the order, not only with regard

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Online LibraryCharles Henry FernaldThe pterophoridae of North America → online text (page 1 of 7)