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Family Pterophoridae - Plume Moths

Pterophoridae, dorsal - Oidaematophorus eupatorii Plume Moth - Hellinsia 6186  - Hellinsia inquinatus Plume NJ Morning-glory Plume Moth - Emmelina monodactyla plume moth Plume moth Coyote Brush Borer Plume Moth, Hellinsia grandis - Hellinsia grandis
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
Classification
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
No Taxon (Moths)
Superfamily Pterophoroidea
Family Pterophoridae (Plume Moths)
Numbers
147 species in 26 genera in North America.
Size
Wingspan 13-41 mm
Identification
Adult: wings very slender, held at right-angles to body when at rest, giving a T-shaped profile as viewed from above; forewing outer margin deeply notched; hindwing has three deep lobes, often fringed, held concealed beneath forewing when at rest; legs long, slender (hind tibia two to three times longer than femur), sometimes with projecting spines at joints; abdominal terga 2 and 3 generally elongated.

Larva: usually hairy or bristly, variously colored.
Range
most of North America, and many other regions of the world
Habitat
adults are commonly found on flowers of herbaceous plants during the day, but are also nocturnal and come to light
Season
adults fly from spring through fall; may be active all year in the far south
Food
Larvae are leafrollers or stem borers of various herbaceous plants. Eisner (1) describes the remarkable caterpillar of one species, Trichoptilus parvulus, that feeds on the leaves of Pink Sundew (Drosera capillaris), a carnivorous plant.
Adults feed on nectar/pollen of various herbaceous plants.
Life Cycle
Some species overwinter as adults, so may be found in early spring. Many species form a naked pupa attached by a cremaster to a surface, much like that of some butterflies. A few species form partial cocoons. One to several generations per year.

Click on an image to view the life cycle:

Remarks
A distinctive family of moths, but difficult to identify to genus or species.
See Also
Many-plumed moths (family Alucitidae) spread their wings in a fan shape when at rest, and therefore do not have a T-shaped profile as viewed from above.
Print References
Eisner, pp. 108-113 (1)
Covell, p. 391, plate 58 #19, #21 (2)
Himmelman, pp. 47-48 (3)
Holland, pp. 415-416 (4)
Internet References
pinned adult images of numerous species and genera by various photographers (Moth Photographers Group)
list of North American species with numerous accompanying images and links to other images (Debbie Matthews, Pterophoridae of North America, plumemoth.com)
adult image of Platyptilia carduidactyla by Stephanie Boucher, plus brief overview of family (Canadian Biodiversity, McGill U., Quebec)
links to pinned adult images of several species (Bruce Walsh, Moths of Southeastern Arizona)
presence in Minnesota (Insects of Cedar Creek, Minnesota)
Works Cited
1.For Love of Insects
Thomas Eisner. 2003. Belknap Press.
2.Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America
Charles V. Covell, Jr. 2005.
3.Discovering Moths: Nighttime Jewels in Your Own Backyard
John Himmelman. 2002. Down East Books.
4.The Moth Book
W.J. Holland. 1968. Dover.