Moths of Hastings

More About Pterophoroidea and Pyraloidea

Jerry A. Powell, Essig Museum of Entomlogy
April 2000

The Pterophoroidea and Pyraloidea comprise an informal grade of moth taxa that includes the Ditrysian Lepidoptera considered to be intermediate in evolutionary origin between the so-called Microlepidoptera and Macrolepidoptera (i. e., numbers 4703-6234 in the Hodges et al., 1983, Check List of the Lepidoptera of North America).

[The Zygaenoidea could be considered along with these taxa, but no zygaenoids are known at Hastings].

Owing to the small size of most species (although generally most are larger than most Microlepidoptera) and the difficulty of handling specimens, pyraloids often are ignored by collectors. However they are better surveyed than Microlepidoptera. As a result, inventory and taxonomic studies are more advanced than for Microlepidoptera but lag behind those of larger moths and butterflies. Most of the California species are described, but there are no contemporary specialists for several subfamilies, so in some taxa it is difficult to identify the species.

Larvae of most Pyraloidea are concealed feeders: detritivores of plant material (including stored grain, flour, nuts, and other food products); borers in roots, stems, cones, acorns, or wood rot fungi; or they create shelters using silk to draw together leaves or other feeding substrates. The majority of the phytophagous species are host plant specialists, often depending upon plants of one genus or a few closely related genera. By contrast, most macrolepidopterous moth larvae are external feeders that do not make shelters, and most are generalists, feeding on a variety of plants, often low-growing herbs, grasses, or trees and shrubs, varying with the species.

The "Check List of the Insects of Frances Simes Hastings Natural History Reservation," which was compiled in the 1940's by Jean Linsdale and others, lists only one pterophorid and 13 pyraloid species names (indicated by H in the present list). The original list evidently was based on the collection at Hastings, which now is housed at The Oakland Museum (indicated by OM in the present list), but it failed to list most of the species identified in the collection. I reorganized the collection in March 1998 and found ca. 60 specimens of Pterophoridae and 780 Pyraloidea, sorted them to taxa, identified all that I could without dissections, and affixed ID labels to the packets using updated nomenclature. Many of these had been identified by L. M. Martin and J. A. Comstock in 1940-1950. I do not have the expertise to confirm some of them.

I differentiated about 60 pyraloid species in the collection at the Oakland Museum, in addition to ca. 10-15 species of Phycitinae that I do not recognize without dissection. There are 12-14 species of pterophorids, but I do not have the expertise to ID some of them. I did not record the collection dates. Two additional species collected by Frank Sala in the early 1990s are present in the collection at Hastings.

I collected at Hastings with Don Linsdale twice in 1957-58 and on 11 dates in March, April, May, June 1997-2000, and I recorded a few additional species. During most of these visits, nights were cold and not very productive for moths attracted to blacklights. Species identified from these collections are designated by month-year on the following list (e.g.,V.97). There may be additional species in the Essig Museum from which the data have not been retrieved. My rearing lot numbers are given for species recorded from field collected larvae. The lot designations are based on the collection date (e.g. 00C15 = 2000, March, 15th collection).

Based on the inventory at Big Creek Reserve and the similar numbers of butterflies known at the two reserves, I would expect Hastings to produce about 75 species of pyraloids and more than 20 pterophorids. The present list records about 12 species of pterophorids and 65 pyraloids, and 10-15 unidentified, potentially additional phycitine species. Hence, the inventory is much more complete than for Microlepidoptera, which have only 33% or fewer of the expected species total recorded.

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