The Pterophoridae or plume moths are a family of Lepidoptera with unusually modified wings. Though they belong to the Apoditrysia like the larger moths and the butterflies, unlike these they are tiny and were formerly included among the assemblage called "microlepidoptera".

Plume moths
Emmelina monodactyla MHNT
Emmelina monodactyla
(Pterophorinae: Pterophorini)
Scientific classification

Zeller, 1841
Type species
Pterophorus pentadactyla
>90 genera
>1,000 species

Description and ecology

The forewings of plume moths usually consist of two curved spars with more or less bedraggled bristles trailing behind. This resembles the closely related Alucitidae (many-plumed moths) at first glance, but the latter have a greater number of symmetrical plumes. The hindwings are similarly constructed, but have three spars. A few genera have normal lepidopteran wings.

The usual resting posture is with the wings extended laterally and narrowly rolled up. Often they resemble a piece of dried grass, and may pass unnoticed by potential predators even when resting in exposed situations in daylight. Some species have larvae which are stem- or root-borers while others are leaf-browsers.

Economically important pterophorids include the artichoke plume moth (Platyptilia carduidactyla), an artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) pest in California, while the geranium plume moth (Platyptilia pica)[1] and the snapdragon plume moth (Stenoptilodes antirrhina) can cause damage to the ornamental plants garden geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum) and common snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), respectively. Other plume moths have been used as biological control agents against invasive plant species – Lantanophaga pusillidactyla against West Indian lantana (Lantana camara), Oidaematophorus beneficus against mistflower (Ageratina riparia), Hellinsia balanotes against groundsel bush (Baccharis halimifolia),[2] and Wheeleria spilodactylus against horehound (Marrubium vulgare).[3]


The small group of moths in the genus Agdistopis has often been treated as a subfamily Macropiratinae within the Pterophoridae, but recent research indicates that this group should be considered a separate family.

The family is divided into the following subfamilies, tribes and genera,[4] some species are also listed:
Subfamily Agdistinae

Subfamily Ochyroticinae

Subfamily Deuterocopinae Gielis, 1993

Subfamily Pterophorinae Zeller, 1841


  1. ^ MDA (1980)
  2. ^ Palmer, W.A. & Haseler, W.H. (1992)
  3. ^ Baker, J. (2002)
  4. ^ Gielis, Cees (2000-05-31). "Division of the Pterophoridae into Tribes (Lepidoptera)" (PDF). Quadrifina. 3: 57–60 – via ZOBODAT.


  • Baker, J. (2002): Factors affecting the establishment of a classical biological control agent, the horehound plume moth (Wheeleria spilodactylus) in South Australia. (A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Applied and Molecular Ecology, Adelaide University, Australia) PDF fulltext
  • Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) (1980): Geranium Plume Moth Quarantine. PDF fulltext
  • Palmer, W.A & Haseler, W.H. (1992): Foodplant Specificity and Biology of Oidaematophorus balanotes (Pterophoridae): A North American Moth Introduced into Australia for the Control of Baccharis halimifolia (Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 46(3), 1992: 195-202). PDF fulltext

External links

Agdistis (moth)

Agdistis is a genus of moths in the family Pterophoridae described by Jacob Hübner in 1825. It is the only genus in the Agdistinae subfamily which was described by J. W. Tutt in 1907.

Cees Gielis

Cees Gielis is a Dutch entomologist and researcher of biodiversity, specializing in Lepidoptera, at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, Netherlands. As of March 2019, Gielis authored 378 taxa within the family of Pterophoridae and 19 within the family of Alucitidae.


Hellinsia is a genus of moth in the family Pterophoridae.

Hepalastis pumilio

Hepalastis pumilio is a moth of the family Pterophoridae. It has worldwide tropical distribution, including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Japan, Micronesia, South Africa the Virgin Islands as well as Queensland and New Guinea.The wingspan is 12–15 mm. Adults are on wing in March, April and June.

Larvae have been recorded feeding on Desmodium incanum, Alysicarpus vaginalis and Oxalis sp.

List of moths of India (Pterophoridae)

This is a list of moths of the family Pterophoridae that are found in India. It also acts as an index to the species articles and forms part of the full List of moths of India.


Ochyrotica is a genus of moths in the family Pterophoridae and only genus in the Ochyroticinae subfamily. Ochyroticawas described by Lord Walsingham in 1891 and the subfamily Ochyroticinae was described by Lutz Thilo Wasserthal in 1970.


Oidaematophorus is a genus of moth in the family Pterophoridae with a cosmopolitan distribution.

Oidaematophorus lithodactyla

Oidaematophorus lithodactyla is a moth of the family Pterophoridae that is found from Europe to Asia Minor and Japan.

The wingspan is 26–29 millimetres (1.0–1.1 in). Adults have a greyish forewing with an angled darker marking just inside the cleft. Adults are on wing in July and August in western, central and northeastern Europe.The larvae feed on Pulicaria dysenterica and Inula conyza. They initially feed in the shoots, but later they feed on the leaves. Occasionally the larvae are found feeding on fleabane as well, while adults rarely prefer it.On 2 June 1984, the Oidaematophorus lithodactyla larvae were found feeding on Inula salicina, in Oslo.


Oxyptilini is a tribe within the subfamily Pterophorinae of the plume moths or Pterophoridae. The monophyly of this group was established in a 2011 phylogenetic study. A key to distinguish the genera within this tribe was published in 2010.

Oxyptilus parvidactyla

Oxyptilus parvidactyla is a brown coloured moth of the family Pterophoridae. It is found in almost all of Europe, as well as Russia, Asia Minor and North Africa.

The wingspan is 13–18 millimetres (0.51–0.71 in). Adults are on wing from May to July in western Europe. There is one generation per year.

Young larvae feed on the young leaves of Hieracium species, including Hieracium pilosella and possibly Hieracium laevigatum. Later instars feed on the flowerheads.


Platyptilia is a genus of moths in the family Pterophoridae. The genus was described by Jacob Hübner in 1825.


Pterophorinae is a subfamily of moth in the family Pterophoridae.

Pterophorus pentadactyla

Pterophorus pentadactyla (white plume moth) is a moth of the family Pterophoroidea. It is found in Europe.

The wingspan is 24–35 mm. It is uniformly white, with the hind wing pair divided in three feathery plumes and the front pair in another two. The moths fly from June to August.

The larvae feed on Convolvulus species.

Sphenarches anisodactylus

The geranium plume moth (Sphenarches anisodactylus) is a moth of the family Pterophoridae. It is found in western Africa, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Japan, the New Hebrides and Central and South America, as well as Australia, where it has been recorded from Cape York to central New South Wales. It is also present in the United States, where it has been recorded from Florida, as well as Mississippi.

The wingspan is about 10 millimetres (0.39 in). Both the forewings and hindwings are composed of feather-like plumes. These are buff with brown marks. When resting, the moth sits with its abdomen curved up into the air and its wings held at right angles to the body with the plumes folded.

The larvae feed on flower buds and flowers of Dolichos lablab, Lagenaria, Pelargonium and Fabaceae species. Other recorded food plants include Brillantaisia lamium, Caperonia castaneifolia, Phaseolus vulgaris, Hibiscus mutabilis, Thalia geniculata, Mimosa pudica, Orchidaceae, Averrhoa bilimbi, Passiflora foetida, Antirrhinum majus, Theobroma cacao and Lantana camara.


Stenoptilia is a genus of moth in the family Pterophoridae.

Stenoptilia bipunctidactyla

Stenoptilia bipunctidactyla is a moth of the Pterophoroidea family. It is found in Europe, Asia Minor, Syria, North Africa and Iran.The wingspan is 17–25 mm. The moths fly from March to October depending on the location.

The larvae feed on Succisa pratensis, Linaria vulgaris, Weasel's snout and Knautia species.

Stenoptilia pelidnodactyla

Stenoptilia pelidnodactyla is a moth of the family Pterophoridae. It is found in most of Europe, except Portugal, Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Croatia, Greece, Lithuania and Ukraine.

The wingspan is 16–25 mm. Adults are on wing from May to September.The larvae feed on Saxifraga granulata, Saxifraga bryoides, Saxifraga pedemontana, Saxifraga moschata, Saxifraga nervosa, Saxifraga prostii, Saxifraga exarata, Saxifraga aquatica, Saxifraga geranioides and Plantago sempervirens.

Stenoptilia pterodactyla

Stenoptilia pterodactyla is a moth of the family Pterophoroidea. It is found in Europe, North America, Anatolia, Iran and China.

The wingspan is 20–28 mm.

The larvae feed on Veronica chamaedrys.

Stenoptilia zophodactylus

Stenoptilia zophodactylus is a species of moth of the family Pterophoridae. It is found in Europe, North America, South America (Ecuador, Mexico and Paraguay), Australia, South Africa, India and Iran.The wingspan is 16–23 mm.

The larvae feed on Centaurium species (including Centaurium erythraea, Centaurium venusta and Centaurium littoralis), Blackstonia (including Blackstonia perfoliata), Gentiana species (including Gentiana lutea), Gentianella germanica, Gentianella diemensis, Sopubia trifida and Blumea balsamifera.

Extant Lepidoptera families


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