Giant Dayflying Moths

Castniidae, Castnia. Spanish: Catarinetas (Peru). Portuguese: Brocas gigantes (Brazil, larvae).

These, the largest of the mimetic moths (WS 8-18 cm), are easily distinguished from similarly colored types by the hind wing vein structure (see mimetic moths, above). They also have conspicuously clubbed antennae. They are very fast, evasive day or crepuscular fliers and are difficult to catch. The body is heavy and tough and the wing scales coarse, characteristics apparently countering their violent flight, which often takes them through heavy vegetation as indicated by the commonness with which worn or damaged specimens are seen. Males of some species are said to have well-developed scent glands on the midtarsus or underside of the first two abdominal segments, the latter producing a thick, dark substance (Jordan 1922), but this has not been confirmed by repeated observations. Seitz (1913) notes that they exhibit territorial behavior and return regularly to feeding and resting sites.

The larvae of the larger species may be enormous (BL to 8—9 cm) and are typical borers (fig. 10.6h). The later instars are nearly naked, with only minute bristles on the back of the segments and with reduced legs and pale skin. They live on monocots, penetrating and mining fruits, cane stalks, banana stems, the roots and stems of bromeliads, and the pseudobulbs of orchids (Moss 1945). These habits have made some agricultural pests. Castnia licoides ( = licus; fig. 10.6g) is a pest of sugarcane in Trinidad, Guyana, and other places (Skinner 1929), and C. cyparissias (= daedalus) attacks oil palm in Peru (Korytkowski and Ruiz 1979). Unlike the spherical eggs of most other Lepidoptera, those of castniids are usually elongate, like grains of rice.

Only one Neotropical genus, Castnia (Strand 1913), seems clearly definable, although Oiticica (1955) divided the 160 species between over twenty genera. Mi-crocastnia was recently recognized by Miller (1980). The family begs biological study and has received only minimal taxonomic treatment to the present (Houlbert 1918, Miller 1972).


Houlbert, C. 1918. Révision monographique de la sous-famille des Castniinae. Etudes Lépidop. Comp. 15: 5-730, pis. 437-462.

Jordan, K. 1922. The scent-organ of certain mimetic Castniidae. Entomol. Soc. London Trans. 1922: xci.

Korytkowski, C. A., and E. R. Ruiz A. 1979. El barreno de los racimos de la Palma aceitera Castnia daedalus (Cramer), Lepidopt.: Castniidae, en la plantación de Tocache-Peru Rev. Peruana Entomol. 22(1): 49-62.

Miller, J. Y. 1972. Review of the Central American Castnia inca Complex (Castniidae) Allyn Mus. Bull. 6: 1-13.

Miller, J. Y. 1980. Studies in the Castniidae. III. Microcastnia. Allyn Mus. Bull. 60: 1-15.

Moss, A. M. 1945. The Castnia of Pará, with notes on others (Lep. Castniidae). Royal Entomol. Soc. London Proc. B 14: 48-52.

Oiticica, J. 1955. Revisáo dos nomes genericos Sul Americanos da subfamilia Castniinae (Lepidoptera, Castniidae). Rev. Brasil. Entomol. 3: 137-167.

Seitz, A. 1913. Castniidae. In A. Seitz, ed., The Macrolepidoptera of the world. II Div.: The Macrolepidoptera of the American region, the American Bombyces and Sphinges. 6: 5-7. Kernen, Stuttgart.

Skinner, H. M. 1929. The giant moth borer of sugarcane. (Castnia Licus—Drury). Trop. Agrie. 7 (suppl., Jan.): 1-8.

Strand, E. 1913. Castnia. In A. Seitz, ed., The Macrolepidoptera of the world. II Div.: The Macrolepidoptera of the American region, the American Bombyces and Sphinges. 6: 7-19. Kernen, Stuttgart.

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