Smoky Moths

Zygaenidae (including Pyromorphidae).


Most smoky moths are small (WS 25—30 mm) and wasplike with elongate, darkly infúscate wings, resembling some of the smaller wasp mimics in the Arctiidae. A few are orange, orange barred, or otherwise colored like Müllerian models among these families and net-winged beetles. They are easily distinguished, however, by the presence of conspicuous hairy, padlike organs on the head above the compound eye (chaetosemata) plus the venational differences outlined above (see mimetic moths).

The adults are diurnal and frequently seen taking nectar from flowers (fig. 10.6a) or cruising close to the ground amid low vegetation. As far as is known, they do not acquire pyrrolizidine alkaloids from plants but do take up cyanic glycosides. Collectors often find them difficult to kill in their cyanide bottles.

The larvae are small (seldom longer than 1 cm), slightly hairy, and feed gregariously, often side by side in military rows. They commonly remove only the cells between the veins, leaving just a skeleton of the leaf. Pupation occurs in a strong, elongate cocoon placed among leaves.

The family is poorly represented in the New World, with only 140 species in all of Latin America (Tarmann 1984).

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