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Family Adelidae - Fairy Moths

Fairy Moth - Adela purpurea - male Moths with long antennae - Adela punctiferella which Fairy moth ? - Adela flammeusella Long antennaes - small moth? - Adela septentrionella Moth - Adela Adela flammeusella - Adela - female adela flammeusella - Adela flammeusella moth - Adela caeruleella - male
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Adeloidea (Fairy Moths and kin)
Family Adelidae (Fairy Moths)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Formerly considered a subfamily of Incurvariidae.
Explanation of Names
Adelidae from the type genus Adela. Generic epithet Adela is Greek meaning "hidden," because the caterpillars are so well hidden. (1)
All North American genera in this family belong to subfamily Adelinae.
18 species in 3 genera in North America listed in Pohl, et al. 2016 provisional checklist(2)
Wingspan 4-28 mm
Small moths with very long antennae (3 times as long as forewing in males, and 1 to 2 times as long as forewing in females); basal half of antennae hairy in females.
Holarctic and Neotropical species (Adelinae) are diurnal and often iridescent, with white antennae (3).
A key for nearctic members of family (excluding Caucha) appears on pg 215 in Powell (1969). [See "Print References" below, or view directly here.]
Much of North America.
Also occurs in Eurasia and Africa.
Grasslands and openings with forbs & grasses in chaparral, woodlands, or forests, where host plants are nearby.
Adults fly from April to June (Adela flys in April and May in North Carolina, Minnesota, eastern US)
Larvae reported to feed on leaf fragments on ground.
Adults may take nectar from flowers of herbaceous plants as well as trees such as willow.
Life Cycle
Larvae make silken cases (4).
Adelidae was formerly considered a subfamily (Adelinae) of Incurvariidae but was given family status in 1999 by D.R. Davis in the work by N.P. Kristensen cited under Print References below. That classification is followed by All-Leps and by Charles Covell on page xi in the 2nd edition of A Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005)
Print References
Arnett, p. 659. (5)
Borror, listing for adelo (6)
Brimley, p. 313, lists Adela bella (Raleigh, etc. April, May). This is a synonym of A. caeruleella, see this listing of synonyms. (7)
Covell, pp. 454-455 Incurvariidae. (4)
Davis, D.R. in Kristensen, N.P. (Ed.) 1999. Lepidoptera: Moths and butterflies. Volume 1: Evolution, systematics and biogeography. Handbook of Zoology. 491 pp. Walter de Gruyter. Berlin/New York.
Powell & Opler, p. 39. (3)
Powell, J. A. , [PDF] A Synopsis of Nearctic Adelid Moths, with Descriptions of New Species (Incurvariidae) (1969), pp 211-240 in the Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society, Vol. 23, No. 4. Contains a brief introduction to taxonomy and biology of Adelidae, followed by a key and taxonomic discussions for all nearctic taxa (excluding Caucha). Detailed descriptions are given for Adela eldorada, A. thorpella, and A. oplerella...which were newly described in the synopsis.
Internet References
Adelidae Plates from "Moths of Western North America" by Powell & Opler(3)
Live adult image of Adela septentrionella and other info (Jeremy Tatum, Butterflies and Moths of Southern Vancouver Island)
Pinned adult image of Adela purpurea (Insects of Cedar Creek, Minnesota)
Pinned adult image of Adela purpurea (Christian Guay, Insects of Quebec)
Pinned adult images of male and female undetermined Adela species (James Adams, Dalton State College, Georgia)
North Carolina State University Entomology Collection lists in Incurvariidae, but only one genus and species from Adelidae for the state: Adela caeruleella (14 specimens pinned)
Live adult images of 6 European species in 3 genera (Jeff Higgott, UK Lepidoptera)
Pinned adult image of female of the European species Adela croesella showing hairy base of antennae (B. Gustafsson, Sweden)
Classification of Adela in family Adelidae by Davis, in Kristensen, 1999 (Butterflies and Moths of the World)
Works Cited
1.An accentuated list of the British Lepidoptera, with hints on the derivation of the names.
Anonymous. 1858. The Entomological Societies of Oxford and Cambridge.
2.Annotated taxonomic checklist of the Lepidoptera of North America, North of Mexico
Pohl, G.R., Patterson, B., & Pelham, J.P. 2016.
3.Moths of Western North America
Powell and Opler. 2009. UC Press.
4.Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Moths
Charles V. Covell. 1984. Houghton Mifflin Company.
5.American Insects: A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico
Ross H. Arnett. 2000. CRC Press.
6.Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms
Donald J. Borror. 1960. Mayfield Publishing Company.
7.Insects of North Carolina
C.S. Brimley. 1938. North Carolina Department of Agriculture.