Last updated

Black witch moth (Ascalapha odorata).JPG
Black witch moth
Ascalapha odorata, Brazil
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Superfamily: Noctuoidea
Family: Erebidae
(Leach, [1815])
Eulepidotis affinis, Panama Erebid moth (Eulepidotis affinis).jpg
Eulepidotis affinis, Panama
Apantesis arge caterpillar (Arctiinae) Arge Moth
Apantesis arge caterpillar (Arctiinae)
Halysidota tessellaris, cocoon Halysidota tessellaris cocoon.jpg
Halysidota tessellaris , cocoon

The Erebidae are a family of moths in the superfamily Noctuoidea. The family is among the largest families of moths by species count and contains a wide variety of well-known macromoth groups. The family includes the underwings ( Catocala ); litter moths (Herminiinae); tiger, lichen, and wasp moths (Arctiinae); tussock moths (Lymantriinae), including the arctic woolly bear moth ( Gynaephora groenlandica ); [1] piercing moths (Calpinae and others); micronoctuoid moths (Micronoctuini); snout moths (Hypeninae); and zales, though many of these common names can also refer to moths outside the Erebidae (for example, crambid snout moths). Some of the erebid moths are called owlets.


The sizes of the adults range from among the largest of all moths (>5 in (127 mm) wingspan in the black witch) to the smallest of the macromoths (0.25 in (6 mm) wingspan in some of the Micronoctuini). The coloration of the adults spans the full range of dull, drab, and camouflaged (e.g., Zale lunifera and litter moths) to vivid, contrasting, and colorful (e.g., Aganainae and tiger moths). The moths are found on all continents except Antarctica.



Among the Noctuoidea, the Erebidae can be broadly defined by the wing characteristics of the adults with support from phylogenetic studies. The cubital forewing vein, which runs outward from the base of a wing to the outer margin, splits into two (bifid), three (trifid), or four (quadrifid) veins from the medial area to the outer margin. These split veins are named M2, M3, CuA1, and CuA2 in order toward the inner margin. A trifid forewing has either a reduced or vestigial M2 vein or the M2 vein does not connect to the cubital veins, while M2 is as thick as M3 and connects or nearly connects to M3 in a quadrifid forewing. The same splitting of the hindwing cubital vein has analogous terms bifine, trifine, and quadrifine. The Erebidae typically have quadrifid forewings and quadrifine hindwings, though the Micronoctuini are exceptional with their bifine hindwings. Among the related families, most Erebidae are quadrifid moths like the Euteliidae, Nolidae, and Noctuidae and unlike the trifid Oenosandridae and Notodontidae. And among the quadrifid moths, the Erebidae have quadrifine hindwings like the typical Nolidae and Euteliidae and unlike the typical Noctuidae. [2] [3] [4]

Phylogenetic studies in the present century have helped to clarify the relationships between the structurally diverse lineages within the Noctuoidea and within the Erebidae. Morphological studies had led to a classification in which the monophyletic Arctiinae, Lymantriinae, and Micronoctuini were treated as families, and the other erebid lineages were largely grouped within the Noctuidae. Recent studies combining genetic characteristics with the morphological ones revealed that the former Noctuidae were paraphyletic, and some of the lineages within the Noctuidae were more closely related to the Arctiinae, Lymantriinae, and Micronoctuini families than to the other lineages within the Noctuidae.

The determination of these phylogenetic relationships has led to the present classification scheme in which several clades were rearranged while kept mostly intact and others were split apart. The Erebidae are one monophyletic family among six in the Noctuoidea. A more strictly defined family Noctuidae is also monophyletic, but the family lacks the quadrifine moths now placed as part of the Erebidae. Some subfamilies of the Noctuidae, such as the Herminiinae, were moved as a whole to Erebidae. Other subfamilies, including the Acontiinae and Calpinae, were each split apart. The Arctiinae became an erebid subfamily placed next to the closely related Herminiinae. The Lymantriinae became another erebid subfamily placed near the Pangraptinae. The rank of the Micronoctuini was changed from family to tribe to include the clade as a lineage within the Hypenodinae. The Erebidae are currently divided into 18 subfamilies, some of which are strongly supported by phylogenetic analysis and may persist through further study, while others are weakly supported and may be redefined again.

Related Research Articles

Arctiinae Subfamily of moths

The Arctiinae are a large and diverse subfamily of moths, with around 11,000 species found all over the world, including 6,000 neotropical species. This group includes the groups commonly known as tiger moths, which usually have bright colours, footmen, which are usually much drabber, lichen moths, and wasp moths. Many species have "hairy" caterpillars that are popularly known as woolly bears or woolly worms. The scientific name of this subfamily refers to this hairiness. Some species within the Arctiinae have the word tussock in their common name due to people misidentifying them as members of the Lymantriinae based on the characteristics of the larvae.

Lymantriinae subfamily of insects

The Lymantriinae are a subfamily of moths of the family Erebidae. The taxon was erected by George Hampson in 1893.

Noctuoidea Superfamily of moths

Noctuoidea is the superfamily of noctuid or "owlet" moths, and has more than 70,000 described species, the largest number of for any Lepidopteran superfamily. Its classification has not yet reached a satisfactory or stable state. Since the end of the 20th century, increasing availability of molecular phylogenetic data for this hugely successful radiation has led to several competing proposals for a taxonomic arrangement that correctly represents the relationships between the major lineages.

Calpinae subfamily of insects

The Calpinae are a subfamily of moths in the family Erebidae described by Jean Baptiste Boisduval in 1840. This subfamily includes many species of moths that have a pointed and barbed proboscis adapted to piercing the skins of fruit to feed on juice, and in the case of the several Calyptra species of vampire moths, to piercing the skins of mammals to feed on blood. The subfamily contains some large moths with wingspans longer than 5 cm (2 in).

Hypeninae subfamily of insects

The Hypeninae are a subfamily of moths in the family Erebidae. The taxon was first described by Gottlieb August Wilhelm Herrich-Schäffer in 1851. A notable species is Mecistoptera griseifusa, which lives solely on tears it drinks with its proboscis.

Herminiinae subfamily of insects

The Herminiinae are a subfamily of moths in the family Erebidae. The members of the subfamily are called litter moths because the caterpillars of most members feed on dead leaves of plants, though others feed on living leaves.

<i>Cybosia</i> Genus and species of moth

Cybosia is a monotypic moth genus in the subfamily Arctiinae erected by Jacob Hübner in 1819. Its only species, Cybosia mesomella, the four-dotted footman, was first described by Carl Linnaeus in his 1758 10th edition of Systema Naturae.

Aganainae Subfamily of moths

The Aganainae are a small subfamily of moths in the family Erebidae. The adults and caterpillars of this subfamily are typically large and brightly colored, like the related tiger moths. Many of the caterpillars feed on poisonous host plants and acquire toxic cardenolides that make them unpleasant to predators. Like the closely related litter moths, the adults have long, upturned labial palps, and the caterpillars have fully or mostly developed prolegs on the abdomen. The Aganainae are distributed across the tropics and subtropics of the Old World.

<i>Nudaria</i> genus of insects

Nudaria is a genus of moths in the subfamily Arctiinae erected by Adrian Hardy Haworth in 1809.

<i>Baniana</i> genus of insects

Baniana is a genus of moths of the family Erebidae. The genus was previously classified in the subfamily Calpinae of the family Noctuidae.

Colobochyla is a genus of moths of the family Erebidae.

<i>Homodes</i> genus of insects

Homodes is a genus of moths of the family Erebidae first described by Achille Guenée in 1852.

<i>Trisateles</i> Genus and species of moth

Trisateles is a monotypic moth genus of the family Erebidae described by Tams in 1939. Its only species, Trisateles emortualis, the olive crescent, was first described by Michael Denis and Ignaz Schiffermüller in 1775. It is found in most of Europe, east to Siberia, northern Iran and China.

<i>Asota</i> (moth) Genus of moths

Asota is a genus of moths in the family Erebidae first described by Jacob Hübner in 1819. Species are widely distributed throughout Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, the Malayan region and tropical parts of the Australian region.

Erebinae subfamily of insects

The Erebinae are a subfamily of moths in the family Erebidae erected by William Elford Leach in 1815. Erebine moths are found on all continents except Antarctica, but reach their greatest diversity in the tropics. While the exact number of species belonging to the Erebinae is not known, the subfamily is estimated to include around 10,000 species. Some well-known Erebinae include underwing moths (Catocala) and witch moths (Thermesiini). Many of the species in the subfamily have medium to large wingspans, up to nearly 30 cm in the white witch moth, which has the widest wingspan of all Lepidoptera. Erebine caterpillars feed on a broad range of plants; many species feed on grasses and legumes, and a few are pests of castor bean, sugarcane, rice, as well as pistachios and blackberries.

The Micronoctuini are a tribe of moths in the family Erebidae that includes about 400 described species. Typical species in the tribe have bifine hindwing venation and are smaller than those in other noctuoid moths. Micronoctua karsholti is the smallest of all species in the superfamily Noctuoidea.

Ocnogyna anatolica is a moth of the family Erebidae. It was described by Thomas Joseph Witt in 1980. It is found in Turkey.

The Scoliopteryginae are a subfamily of moths in the family Erebidae. Larvae have distinctive, extra setae on the first through seventh abdominal segments. Many adult moths in the subfamily have a proboscis adapted to pierce fruit skin, allowing consumption of the juice in the fruit.

The Rivulinae are a subfamily of moths in the family Erebidae described by Augustus Radcliffe Grote in 1895. Caterpillars in the subfamily typically have long, barbed hairs and have full prolegs on abdominal segments 3 through 6. The adults have a unique microsculturing proboscis.

The Pangraptinae are a subfamily of moths in the family Erebidae.


  1. Kukal, Olga; Dawson, Todd E. (1989-06-01). "Temperature and food quality influences feeding behavior, assimilation efficiency and growth rate of arctic woolly-bear caterpillars". Oecologia. 79 (4): 526–532. doi:10.1007/BF00378671. ISSN   0029-8549. PMID   28313488.
  2. Zahiri, Reza; et al. (2012). "Molecular phylogenetics of Erebidae (Lepidoptera, Noctuoidea)". Systematic Entomology. 37: 102–124. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3113.2011.00607.x.
  3. Lafontaine, Donald; Schmidt, Christian (19 Mar 2010). "Annotated check list of the Noctuoidea (Insecta, Lepidoptera) of North America north of Mexico". ZooKeys (40): 1–239. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.40.414 .
  4. Zahiri, Reza; et al. (2013). "Relationships among the basal lineages of Noctuidae (Lepidoptera, Noctuoidea) based on eight gene regions". Zoologica Scripta. 42 (5): 488–507. doi:10.1111/zsc.12022.