Last updated

Cossula magnifica (Cossulinae)
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Infraorder: Heteroneura
Clade: Eulepidoptera
Clade: Ditrysia
Clade: Apoditrysia
Superfamily: Cossoidea
Family: Cossidae
Leach, 1815

The Cossidae, the cossid millers or carpenter millers, make up a family of mostly large miller moths. This family contains over 110 genera with almost 700 known species, and many more species await description. Carpenter millers are nocturnal Lepidoptera found worldwide, except the Southeast Asian subfamily Ratardinae, which is mostly active during the day.


Witchetty grubs (Endoxyla leucomochla) of the subfamily Zeuzerinae Witchetty grub.jpg
Witchetty grubs ( Endoxyla leucomochla ) of the subfamily Zeuzerinae

This family includes many species with large caterpillars and moths with a wingspan from 9–24 cm (3+129+12 in).[ citation needed ] These moths are mostly grey; some have long, narrow wings and resemble hawkmoths (Sphingidae) which are more advanced macrolepidoptera, however. Many are twig, bark, or leaf mimics, and Cossidae often have some sort of large marking at the tip of the forewing uppersides, conspicuous in flight, but resembling a broken-off twig when the animals are resting.

Caterpillars are smooth with a few hairs. [1] Most cossid caterpillars are tree borers, in some species taking up to three years to mature. The caterpillars pupate within their tunnels; they often have an unpleasant smell, hence another colloquial name is goat moths.

The family includes the carpenterworm ( Prionoxystus robiniae ) and the goat moth (Cossus cossus) which have gained popularity as pests. However, the large caterpillars of species that do not smell badly are often edible. Witchetty grubs among the Outback's most famous bush tucker are most commonly the caterpillars of Endoxyla leucomochla , one of the more than 80 cossid species in Australia. In Chile, the sweet-smelling caterpillars of the Chilean moth ( Chilecomadia moorei ) are harvested in quantity and internationally traded as butterworms, for use as pet food and fishing bait.


Some other animal families, such as the Dudgeoneidae, Metarbelidae, and Ratardidae, have been included within this family time and again. The first is considered a distinct family of the Cossoidea today recognizable by their abdominal tympanal organs which the Cossidae lack, whereas the other two are usually kept in the Cossidae as subfamilies. Some unrelated millers were included in the Cossidae in error, too, such as the genus Holcoceroides which is more primitive Ditrysia, or the Andesianidae which are even more ancient Heteroneura.

The Cossidae were usually divided into six subfamilies. [2] However, numerous new subfamilies have been described recently, the current taxonomy is:

Specimen of the large Zeuzerinae genus Xyleutes Drevotochets evkaliptovyi.jpg
Specimen of the large Zeuzerinae genus Xyleutes
Zyganisus caliginosus belongs to an Australian genus of unclear affiliations. Zyganisus caliginosus (ento-csiro-au).jpg
Zyganisus caliginosus belongs to an Australian genus of unclear affiliations.

Excluded genera

Related Research Articles

Coleophoridae Family of moths

The Coleophoridae are a family of small moths, belonging to the huge superfamily Gelechioidea. Collectively known as case-bearers, casebearing moths or case moths, this family is represented on all continents, but the majority are found in temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere. They are most common in the Palearctic, and rare in sub-Saharan Africa, South America, and Australia; consequently, they probably originated in northern Eurasia. They are relatively common in houses, they seek out moist areas to rest and procreate.

<i>Xestia</i> Genus of noctuid moths

Xestia is a genus of noctuid moths. They are the type genus of the tribe Xestiini in subfamily Noctuinae, though some authors merge this tribe with the Noctuini. Species in this genus are commonly known as "clays", "darts" or "rustics", but such names are commonplace among Noctuidae. Xestia moths have a wide distribution, though they most prominently occur in the Holarctic.

Cossinae Subfamily of moths

The Cossinae are the nominate subfamily of the Cossidae. The caterpillars of several Cossinae species, such as the carpenterworm and the goat moth, are significant pests. On the other hand, in Chile the caterpillars of the Chilean moth are collected on a commercial scale for sale as fishing bait and terrarium pet food; they are usually called "butterworms" in international trade.

Pyralinae Subfamily of moths

The Pyralinae are the typical subfamily of snout moths and occur essentially worldwide, in some cases aided by involuntary introduction by humans. They are rather rare in the Americas however, and their diversity in the Australian region is also limited. Altogether, this subfamily includes about 900 described species, but new ones continue to be discovered. Like many of their relatives in the superfamily Pyraloidea, the caterpillar larvae of many Pyralinae – and in some cases even the adults – have evolved the ability to use unusual foods for nutrition; a few of these can become harmful to humans as pests of stored goods.

<i>Blastobasis</i> Type genus of moth family Blastobasidae

Blastobasis is the type genus of the gelechioid moth family Blastobasidae; in some arrangements these are placed in the case-bearer family (Coleophoridae) as a subfamily. Within the Blastobasidae, the subfamily Blastobasinae has been established to distinguish the Blastobasis lineage from the group around Holcocera, but the delimitation is not yet well-resolved.

Nacophorini Tribe of moths

The Nacophorini are one of the smaller tribes of geometer moths in the subfamily Ennominae. They are the most diverse Ennominae of Australia and are widespread in the Americas. If the African genera tentatively placed herein indeed belong here, the distribution of the Nacophorini is distinctly Gondwanan, with their probable origin either of Australia, South America or even Antarctica. In Eurasia, they are rare by comparison.

<i>Lomographa bimaculata</i> Species of moth

Lomographa bimaculata, the white-pinion spotted, is a species of geometer moth. It belongs to the large geometer moth subfamily Ennominae, and therein to the tribe Baptini. It is – under its junior synonym – the type species of its genus Lomographa. It is also the type species of Bapta, a junior objective synonym of Lomographa and the namesake of the Baptini. The species was first described by Johan Christian Fabricius ion 1775.

<i>Scythropia crataegella</i> Species of moth

Scythropia crataegella, the hawthorn moth, is a species of moth in the family Plutellidae from western Eurasia. It is usually placed in a small subfamily Scythropiinae, which is sometimes included in the Yponomeutinae of the Yponomeutidae.

<i>Cossus cossus</i> Species of moth

Cossus cossus, the goat moth, is a moth of the family Cossidae. It is found in Northern Africa, Asia and Europe.

<i>Nemapogon granella</i> Species of moth

Nemapogon granella is a species of tineoid moth. It belongs to the fungus moth family (Tineidae), and therein to the subfamily Nemapogoninae. It is the type species of its genus Nemapogon, and via that also of the subfamily Nemapogoninae. It is also the type species of the proposed genera Brosis and Diaphthirusa, which are consequently junior objective synonyms of Nemapogon.

<i>Oecophora bractella</i> Species of moth

Oecophora bractella is a species of gelechioid moth. It belongs to the subfamily Oecophorinae of the concealer moth family (Oecophoridae). As the type species of its genus Oecophora, its affiliations and phylogeny determine the delimitation of that family and subfamily.

<i>Borkhausenia minutella</i> Species of moth

Borkhausenia minutella is a species of moth. Within its superfamily, it is placed within the subfamily Oecophorinae of the "concealer moth" family, Oecophoridae.

<i>Alabonia geoffrella</i> Species of moth

Alabonia geoffrella is a species of gelechioid moth. Here, it is placed within the subfamily Oecophorinae of the concealer moth family (Oecophoridae). Alternatively it has been placed in the Elachistidae or Depressariinae together with its presumed closest relatives.

Schiffermuelleria is a genus of gelechioid moths. It is placed in the subfamily Oecophorinae of family Oecophoridae. The genus is treated as monotypic, with the single species Schiffermuelleria schaefferella placed here. As such, its distinctness from the closely related genus Borkhausenia – where S. schaefferella was often placed in the past – is open to debate.

<i>Phallaria ophiusaria</i> Species of moth

Phallaria ophiusaria, the large leaf moth, is the only species in the monotypic moth genus Phallaria in the family Geometridae. It is known from the Australian states of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. Both the genus and species were first described by Achille Guenée in 1857.

Phycitinae Subfamily of moths

The Phycitinae are a subfamily of snout moths. Even though the Pyralidae subfamilies are all quite diverse, Phycitinae stand out even by standards of their family: with over 600 genera considered valid and more than 4000 species placed here at present, they unite up more than three-quarters of living snout moth diversity. Together with the closely related Epipaschiinae, they are apparently the most advanced lineage of snout moths.

<i>Phycita</i> Genus of moths

Phycita is a genus of small moths belonging to the snout moth family (Pyralidae). They are the type genus of their tribe Phycitini and of the huge snout moth subfamily Phycitinae.

Galleriinae Subfamily of moths

The Galleriinae are a subfamily of snout moths and occur essentially worldwide, in some cases aided by involuntary introduction by humans. This subfamily includes the wax moths, whose caterpillars (waxworms) are bred on a commercial scale as food for pets and as fishing bait; in the wild, these and other species of Galleriinae may also be harmful to humans as pests.

<i>Cossus</i> Genus of moths

Cossus is a genus of moths in the family Cossidae described by Johan Christian Fabricius in 1793.

Metarbelidae Family of moths

The Metarbelidae are a family of the Cossoidea also called the carpenter or goat moths, and is sometimes treated as a subfamily, Metarbelinae of the Cossidae. No synapomorphies are shared with the Cossidae based on adult morphology. The family Metarbelidae was first described by Embrik Strand in 1909.


  1. Hampson, G. F. (1892). The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma: Moths Volume I. Taylor and Francis via Biodiversity Heritage Library.
  2. Pitkin & Jenkins (2004) and see references in Savela (2006)

Further reading