Biodiversity Informatics Lepidoptera Species Lists

Global Lepidoptera Index


Comprehensive species lists are important tools for taxonomists, field biologists, conservationists, biosecurity officers, policymakers, biodiversity data platforms, amateur naturalists and many others (see the list of open-access papers Towards a global list of accepted species).

Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) are a hyperdiverse group for which we still lack a high-quality synonymised checklist. Many users and websites rely on LepIndex, a database created from a card index at the Natural History Museum (NHM), London but this is very incomplete and needs significant curation.

The Catalogue of Life (COL) Checklist has treated LepIndex as its primary resource for Lepidoptera but replaces several families with more complete and current datasets from various sources. I have helped to prepare and continue to maintain such datasets for Gelechiidae, Pterophoridae and Alucitidae.

Over the last few years, a copy of LepIndex has been imported into the TaxonWorks online taxonomic workbench tool as the Global Lepidoptera Index, and significant improvements have been made to some sections (especially Bombycoidea and Geometridae). From June 2022, this TaxonWorks dataset replaces the NHM version of LepIndex in COL. TaxonWorks is a collaborative data management tool which opens the door for a much wider community of taxonomists and other experts to work together on delivering a truly comprehensive and current listing of the world’s butterflies and moths.

The challenge

Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) form one of the largest insect orders. Close to 10% of all known species of living organisms are Lepidoptera. They are among the most easily surveyed and monitored insect groups, with more than 75 million occurrence records in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) today (compared with 22 million records for Coleoptera). As a highly diversified group feeding on most plant species and other substrates, sampling and monitoring Lepidoptera can give broad insights into ecosystem complexity, health and dynamics.

In 2008, John Heppner (p. 627 in: Capinera, J.L. Encyclopedia of Entomology) estimated that the Lepidoptera number 255,000 extant species with around 156,100 currently named. Michael Pogue (Biodiversity of Lepidoptera, pp. 325-355 in Foottit, R.G & Adler P.H. (2009) Insect Biodiversity – Science and Society) offered a calculation (based on multiple datasets) showing 155,181 described species. The Catalogue of Life (COL) Annual Checklist 2021 contained 148,897 accepted Lepidoptera species. Changes discussed here have raised this count to 154,344 accepted species.

During the last few years, I have updated and digitised species lists developed by Klaus Sattler at the Natural History Museum, London for the Gelechiidae and by Cees Gielis at Naturalis, Leiden for the Alucitidae (including Tineodidae), Pterophoridae and Macropiratidae. This affords an opportunity to assess the completeness of LepIndex and the accuracy of the estimates in Capinera 2008 and Pogue 2009. The following table compares the counts of accepted species in each of these groups in Pogue 2009 and the current datasets now in Catalogue of Life:

GroupPogue COLIncrease
Alucitidae (including Tineodidae)20826025%
Pterophoridae (including Macropiratidae)1192156231%
Species counts for selected Lepidoptera families in Pogue 2009 and the latest Catalogue of Life datasets, with percentage increase in COL.

In each of these groups, at least 25% more species have been described and are currently accepted by taxonomists than are indicated in the published estimates. It therefore seems likely that the total count of currently described Lepidoptera species may be much closer to 200,000.

However, partly owing to the continued level of taxonomic research across the group and partly because of the sheer size of the order, there is still no truly comprehensive and current list of described species for this group. For many years, the Global Lepidoptera Names Index (LepIndex) has served as the reference checklist used by many biodiversity data platforms to organise data on Lepidoptera. LepIndex is a digitised and updated version of an index card archive to the scientific names of the living and fossil butterflies and moths of the world produced over many decades by lepidopterists at the Natural History Museum (London). The stated coverage for this dataset is 137,441 species.

The current situation

For many years, LepIndex has provided most of the Lepidoptera names and classification used in the Catalogue of Life (COL) Checklist, although several families have been sourced from other datasets that have been more fully curated by taxonomists familiar with the groups, specifically:

The remainder of the Lepidoptera coverage (120 families) in COL comes from LepIndex.

The NHM card index was a nomenclatural catalogue rather than a synonymic species list and was never completely curated to reflect all revisions of the order. Coverage of literature from the 1980s onwards is very incomplete and the last edits to the dataset were made in 2018. As a result, LepIndex has the following weaknesses as a resource for organising biodiversity data:

  • Large numbers of new names, combinations and revisions are missing, especially from the last 30 years.
  • The original generic placement (original combination) for many names is not reliably recorded – this at least makes LepIndex unreliable for determining whether parentheses are required around authorship.
  • The only combinations that may be provided are the original combination and one current when each card was last edited – in many cases, only one combination is available.
  • Many names currently considered synonyms are shown as (provisionally) accepted.
  • For the most part, higher classification is limited to family and these do not map consistently to current family concepts, especially in superfamilies such as Gelechioidea and Noctuoidea.
  • A significant number of names were mistranscribed from the original card images resulting in inaccurate spellings.

Despite these flaws, LepIndex has remained in use as a reference classification because no other digital resource is as comprehensive. Even Markku Savela’s excellent Lepidoptera and some other life forms site (which accurately handles much of the more recent literature) contains slightly under 117,000 species and Wikispecies contains under 112,500 pages that include the word “Lepidoptera” (including many that relate to other ranks than species, literature references including the word, etc.). As platforms such as GBIF have expanded their importance, the weaknesses of LepIndex have become clearer and more pressing.

The response

LepIndex has been migrated into the TaxonWorks online taxonomic workbench platform developed and maintained by the Species File Group in Illinois. This is a rich editing environment for nomenclatural and taxonomic datasets and provides many useful tools for editors to contribute updates and corrections.

Many corrections and updates have been applied to the TaxonWorks version of LepIndex, including major revisions to the Bombycoidea and some other families.

The dataset will regularly be published to ChecklistBank as the Global Lepidoptera Index. ChecklistBank is an online platform developed by GBIF and COL to hosts checklist datasets and including the tools used each month to construct the COL Checklist. ChecklistBank also allows any dataset to be downloaded in multiple formats or accessed through a public API.

Additionally, a new family dataset for the Gelechiidae (Catalogue of World Gelechiidae) is now available in ChecklistBank. This is based on the list maintained over many years by Klaus Sattler at NHM but has been updated to include changes made in the literature in the last five years and to serve as a placeholder for a few names that were included as Gelechiidae in LepIndex but that have no current accepted family placement. Associated changes have also been made to the Global Lepidoptera Index to move other species that were previously considered to be Gelechiidae into the currently accepted family.

Now that these datasets are accessible through ChecklistBank, the June 2022 edition of Catalogue of Life includes them in its construction. The following table summarises the current components of the COL Checklist for Lepidoptera.

Nepticulidae and Opostegidae of the WorldLast updated 2016
Exploring fresh import
TineidaeGlobal taxonomic database of Tineidae (Lepidoptera)Based on data from the late Gaden S. Robinson. Last updated 2011
Needs full update
GracillariidaeGlobal Taxonomic Database of GracillariidaeUpdated January 2022
GelechiidaeCatalogue of World GelechiidaeUpdated June 2022
Expected integration into Global Lepidoptera Index
Catalogue of the Pterophoroidea of the WorldUpdated June 2022
Expected integration into Global Lepidoptera Index
AlucitidaeCatalogue of the Alucitoidea of the WorldUpdated June 2022
Expected integration into Global Lepidoptera Index
Global Butterfly Information SystemLast updated 2013
New update expected
Lycaenidae coverage is incomplete and must be reviewed
All othersGlobal Lepidoptera IndexUpdated June 2022
Current status of components in COL Checklist

I plan to integrate the Gelechiidae, Pterophoridae/Macropiratidae and Alucitidae datasets into the Global Lepidoptera Index dataset. The Nepticulidae/Opostegidae, Gracillariidae and Papilionidae/Pieridae datasets are actively maintained outside TaxonWorks but more regular imports are needed. The Tineidae need more work but are also likely to be merged into the Global Lepidoptera Index.

How to contribute

More work is required on almost all other families. Discussions are underway to bring in copies of well-managed datasets for several other families, but contributors or editors are sought for other components. Contributions may take any of the following forms:

  1. Regular copies of existing global superfamily/family/subfamily/tribe datasets that are already maintained externally using other tools. Merging efforts around TaxonWorks as a common platform for all lepidopteran groups would bring significant benefits, but the priority is to maintain high-quality checklists for each group.
  2. A single copy of an existing global superfamily/family/subfamily/tribe that can be shared with COL under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) or Creative Commons Zero (CC0) licence.
  3. Editors (or teams of editors) ready to assume responsibility for updating and maintaining a group within the Global Lepidoptera Index. We can arrange training in the use of the tools.

In all cases, COL advocates for the approach outlined in Garnett et al. 2020 Principles for creating a single authoritative list of the world’s species. Lists should be developed collaboratively by taxonomists and other experts working on the group. Decision processes should be transparent and aim to secure an appropriate consensus view. As far as possible, there should be no barriers to contribution and participation by relevant taxonomists from any region.

Since an increasing proportion of new and even historical taxonomic literature is being made accessible in structured formats (e.g. Pensoft journals, Plazi TreatmentBank), and since most of these datasets will be accessible through ChecklistBank, there is a great opportunity to automate (or semi-automate) inclusion of new taxa, combinations and synonymy.

Australia Pterophoridae

Nippoptilia vitis in Queensland

At present, the Australian Faunal Database lists only one species from the genus Nippoptilia (Pterophoridae: Pterophorinae: Platyptiliini) as known to occur in Australia, Nippoptilia cinctipedalis (Walker, 1864). This species was added to the Australian list by Ernst Arenberger in 2006 and is now frequently recorded by observers down the east coast of the country, from Thursday Island in Far North Queensland to Tinonee in New South Wales, as well as from Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory.

Nippoptilia cinctipedalis is a highly distinctive member of its genus, with the first forewing lobe tapering to a point rather than showing a clear termen, and with a tawny ground colour and prominent darker brown markings on the dorsum of segments 2-3, 5 and 7 of the abdomen.

Alongside these moths, several individuals have been photographed from Nhulunbuy (NT) and Witta (QLD) that show the characteristic appearance of the remaining members of the genus, darker ground colouration, narrow forewings with a well-defined and angled termen and an overall ‘spiky’ appearance from the long tibial spurs and pointed wingtips.

Examples from Nhulunbuy:

Examples from Witta:

Two specimens were collected from Witta on 27 January 2021 for dissection, from a population feeding on a native grape vine, Cayratia clematidea (F.Muell.) Domin. Both these moths were female with genitalia matching those presented for Nippoptilia vitis (Sasaki, 1913) in the paper A taxonomic review of the genus Nippoptilia (Lepidoptera: Pterophoridae) from Korea, with description of a new species. This is based on the extraordinary lateral tufts of scales on either side of the antrum, the notched tip of the antrum and the narrow leaf-like signa on the corpus bursae.

The following are placeholder images to document the occurrence and validate the identification. I hope to provide better images once the genitalia have been properly mounted on slides.

Australia Pterophoridae

On the identity of Pterophorus tinctidactylus Newman, 1856

On 3 December 1855, Edward Newman read a paper to the Entomological Society of London on Characters of a few Australian Lepidoptera, collected by Mr. Thomas R. Oxley, subsequently published (in 1856) in the society’s Transactions (New Series, 3(8): 281-300). Oxley’s specimens were collected in Victoria, Australia, “at Forest Creek, Barker’s Creek and Campbell’s Creek, all on the Mount Alexander Range, and at a distance of about eighty miles from Melbourne.”

This paper described one new plume moth on page 300:

Genus PTEROPHORUS, Geoffroy.

Sp. 1. Pterophorus tinctidactylus, Newm.

Albus citreo-tinctus, lunula alarum pallide fusca anticarum, posticis dilute ochreo-cinereis. (Alarum dilat. ·65 unc.)

[i.e. Lemon-tinged white, with a pale fuscous crescent on the fore wings, and with hind wings slightly ochreous grey. (Wingspan 0.65 ? inches ?)]

White with a very slight tinge of lemon colour; on the fore wings is an indistinct brown mark just at the base of the cleft ; the hind wings are pale ochreous grey.

A single specimen only was taken ; it a good deal resembles P. osteodactylus, but is readily distinguished by the paler colour of the posterior wings, and by the citron-yellow — not fuscous hue — of the antennae. A second species of Pterophorus also forms part of the collection, but is so injured that I cannot venture to characterize it.

The type for tinctidactylus is apparently lost. Subsequent authors have suggested various ways to interpret Newman’s description.

Writing of Australian Pyralidina in 1885, Edward Meyrick simply wrote that he could not speak with certainty of P. tinctidactylus, Newm.

In 1994, Michael Schaffer and Ebbe S. Nielsen (in Nielsen E.S, Edwards E.D. & Rangsi T.V., Checklist of the Lepidoptera of Australia) offered a new combination, Hellinsia tinctidactylus (Newman, 1856). No explanation was offered, but this reflects Newman’s original statement that his species resembled Pterophorus osteodactylus, which is now treated as Hellinsia osteodactylus (Zeller, 1841).

In 2003, Cees Gielis (in World Catalogue of Insects Volume 4: Pterophoroidea &Alucitoidea (Lepidoptera)) tentatively (with two question marks) suggested that Newman’s species might be an alternative name for Platyptilia celidotus (Meyrick, 1884). If this proved true, Newman’s name predates Meyrick’s and would become the accepted name for the species. However, there seems no reason to suggest the identity between these species. Newman is clear that his insect is yellowish, whereas Platyptilia celidotus is a greyish to ivory-coloured insect. P. celidotus does have an streak at the base of the forewing cleft, but this is straight and angled.

There is however an Australian plume moth found in the region where Oxley collected his specimens and which fits Newman’s short description. His comparison was with Hellinsia osteodactylus, which indeed has a lemon-coloured tinge:

Hellinsia osteodactyla (Zeller, 1845) – J. Tyllinen, Copyrighted free use, via Wikimedia Commons

Imbophorus aptalis (Walker, 1864) (originally Aciptilus aptalis Walker, 1864) is a lemon-yellow coloured species with a variable crescent-shaped fuscous mark at the base of the cleft, yellow antennae, and paler hindwings than Hellinsia osteodactylus:

Imbophorus aptalis (Walker, 1864) – Specimen from Australian National Insect Collection, via Barcode of Life Database
Imbophorus aptalis (Walker, 1864) – Fresh individual, Victor W. Fazio III, via iNaturalist

The resemblance seems clear. Again, Newman’s description actually predates Walker’s description of Aciptilia aptalis and the name would have precedence, if the type were still available for confirmation.


Agdistopis griveaudi Gibeaux, 1994

This post is a contribution to assist with comparison of the known species in the genus Agdistopis Hampson, 1917 (Lepidoptera: Macropiratidae).

In 1994, Christian Gibeaux published Faune de Madagascar, 81: Insectes Lépidoptères Pterophoridae, in which he described the first Afrotropical Macropiratidae species from a single specimen collected in Madagascar in 1961.

Gibeaux treated the macropiratids as a subfamily (Macropiratinae) within the Pterophoridae. His key distinguishes the subfamily as having 1) “ailes antérieures et postérieures entières” (all wings undivided) and 2) “revers de l’aile postérieure sans [une double rangée d’écailles modifiées sur le lobe médian]” (without a double series of modified scales on the middle lobe of the hind wing).

His treatment is as follows:


Petite sous-famille ne comportant que deux taxa connus, le troisième appartenant à la faune malgache, est décrit ici.

Gibeaux, C. (1994). Faune de Magascar 81: Insectes Lépidoptères Pterophoridae 10

Agdistopis Hampson

Agdistopis Hampson, 1917 : 43 (espèce type du genre : Agdistopis petrochroa Hampson, 1917 : 44, de Formose, désigné par l’auteur, un synonyme d’Agdistis sinhala Fletcher, 1909 : 8, décrit de Ceylan).

Description. — Palpes labiaux porrigés, d’une longueur égale à deux fois le diamètre de la tête, élargis à leur base par des écailles : palpes maxillaires présents, mais petits ; éperons tibiaux courts : 0, 2, 4.

Aile antérieure avec Sc libre, R tigées (R2 absente), R4 à l’apex, M1 libre, M2 et M3 tigées, Cu1 et Cu2 libres, CuP présente, pas de boucle anale.

Aile postérieure avec Sc+R atteignant l’apex, une branche de M absente, CuP faible, deux anales.

Genitalia ♂ (d’après Inoué) avec le pénis sans caecum ventral, saccus présent, valve amplement bilobée, pas d’uncus proéminent.

Genitalia ♀ aves les apophyses postérieures et antérieures présentes, l’antrum couvert de spinules, le ductus bursae long, la bursa peu individualisée par rapport au ductus, ne portant aucun signum.

Répartition géographique. — Ceylan, Formose, Sud du Japon, îles Fidji et Madagascar.

Commentaire. — La famille des Macropiratidae a été créée , ainsi que le nouveau genre Macropiratis, pour deux nouvelles espèces par Meyrick (1932 : 248-249), la première des Fidji, la seconde de Ceylan. Whalley (1964 : 592) a montré (a) que Macropiratis Meyrick (1932) était un synonyme d’Agdistopis Hampson (1917) décrit comme Pyralidae Galleriinae et (b) que le genre d’Hampson était plus à sa place parmi les Pterophoridae. Minet (1991 : 85 et 87) a confirmé cette opinion, mais en créant une sous-famille spéciale, celle des Macropiratinae, qu’il considère comme la plus primitive des Pterophoridae. L’avis de Minet sera suivi ici, bien que, d’après les spécialistes de Pterophoridae, il conviendrait de rétablir la famille des Macropiratidae.

Gibeaux, C. (1994). Faune de Magascar 81: Insectes Lépidoptères Pterophoridae 10

Agdistopis griveaudi n. sp. (fig. 23)

Agdistopis griveaudi holotype
Agdistopis griveaudi holotype (Gibeaux, 1994, fig. 23)

Type. — Holotype : 1 ♀, Madagascar Centre, S. d’Ambohimahasoa, forêt de Tsarafidy [canton de Tsarafidy, forêt d’Ankafina], 1 450 m, I-1961 (P. Griveaud) (genitalia, prép. Chr. Gibeaux no 4822) (MNHN).

Description. — Envergure : 23 mm ; longueur de la côte des ailes antérieures : 11 mm.

♂. — Il m’est inconnu.

♀. — Antennes brisées, les segments subsistants sont gris-brun. Palpes labiaux (fig. 1) gris-beige, porrigées. Tête grise, avec une bande mediane brune. Thorax et ptérygodes gris-brun. Dessus de l’abdomen gris-brun, avec les sixième et septième tergites plus foncés, latéralement brun foncé, et la partie postérieure de chaque tergite gris perle. Dessous de lábdomen avec la moitié basale brun foncé, ensuite brunâtre. Pattes pro- et mésothoraciques brisées, les fémurs droits subsistants sont beiges. Pattes métathoraciques beige brilant de reflets dorés, ombrées de brunâtre aux articulations, les deux paires d’éperons très courts. Dessous du thorax beige.

Aile antérieure brune, avec : la moitié longitudinale supérieure blanchâtre jusqu’à la cellule, ombrée de brunâtre dans celle-ci ; une ligne transversale oblique antémarginale, la marge, les nervures et une ligne virguliforme au milieu du bord interne du même blanchâtre ; après la cellule, délimitant la zone blanchâtre, une ligne oblique brune, partant de la côte jusqu’à la base du disque ; l’aire marginale, entre la ligne transversale oblique blanchâtre et les franges, brune transversée par les nervures blanchâtres. Franges costales, avant l’apex, blanchâtres ; franges d bord externe composées de deux rangées d’écailles, la première, de moitié plus courte que la seconde, est brun doré, plus clair à la base, la second est brunâtre, également plus claire à la base. Dessous de l’aile marron foncé, aves les dessins blanchâtres transparaissant légèrement.

Aile postérieure marron doré, ainsi que les franges, mais celles-ci paraissent, sous un certain angle, grisâtres. Dessous de l’aile de même couleur que le dessous des ailes antérieures.

Gibeaux, C. (1994). Faune de Magascar 81: Insectes Lépidoptères Pterophoridae 10-12
Agdistopis griveaudi female genitalia
Agdistopis griveaudi female genitalia (Gibeaux, 1994, figs. 96-98)

Genitalia (fig. 96) aves les papilles anales peu marquées, les apophyses postérieures et antérieures assez longues et fines, l’antrum (fig. 98) presque rectangulaire, recouvert de spinules, l’ostium bursae (fig. 97) long, le ductus bursae très long, la bursa peu individulisée par rapport au ductus, ne portant aucun signum, le ductus seminalis émergeant peu après l’ostium.

Distribution. — On ne connait que la localité de l’holotype.

Biologie. — Premiers états inconnus. Espèce se trouvant dans les formations botanique particulières du Domaine du Centre situées au Sud d’Ambohimahasoa.

Répartition géographique. — Madagascar, où l’espèce nést actuellement connue que la région du Centre.

Gibeaux, C. (1994). Faune de Magascar 81: Insectes Lépidoptères Pterophoridae 10-12

Macropiratidae Meyrick, 1932

This post is to make the text available for Edward Meyrick’s original description of the moth family Macropiratidae and its monotypic genus Macropiratis (now synonymised with Agdistopis Hampson, 1917). This family and genus, along with two species descriptions (Macropiratis halieutica n. sp. and Macropiratis heteromantis n. sp.) appear on pages 248-249 of the fourth volume of Meyrick’s Exotic Microlepidoptera, which unfortunately remains unavailable online.

The text reads as follows:



Face oblique or vertical, scales projecting roughly at lower edge; ocelli posterior, distinct; tongue absent. Antennae under ½, ♂ flat-dentate, ciliated, scape short. Labial palpi straight, porrected, with appressed scales, differing specifically. Maxillary palpi imperceptible. Posterior tibiae very long, slender, smooth outer middle spurs ¾ of inner. Abdomen very long and slender. Forewings 2 from ⅔-¾, 3 from near angle, 4 and 5 stalked, 6 from near 9, 7 and 8 out of 9, 10 apparently absent, 11 nearly approximated to 9. Hindwings 1¼, cubital pecten strong and well-developed; 2 from ¾, 3 and 4 short-stalked from angle, 5 obsolete, apparently represented by an imperfect medial fold, 6 and 7 stalked from angle, 8 apparently absent, absorbed throughout in 7.

Type halieutica Meyr. This singular genus presents an exceptional combination of characters which excludes it from all established families of Pyralidina, and I am therefore obliged to form a new family for it. The insects have the aspect of an entire-winged Pterophorid, but do not possess the cubital series of spinules on the lower surface of hindwings invariably characteristic of that family, and are otherwise anomalous; the apparent absence of maxillary palpi is however a point of resemblance, and there is probably a real relationship.

Meyrick, Edward (1932). Exotic Microlepidoptera 4: 248

Macropiratis halieutica, n. sp.

♂. 29 mm. Head light fuscous, face oblique. Palpi fuscous, very long (4), cylindrical, somewhat thickened and slightly roughened above towards base, terminal joint short, obtuse. Antennal ciliations short. Thorax light fuscous mixed whitish. Forewings very elongate, very narrow at base, gradually dilated, costa moderately arched near apex, termen slightly rounded, oblique; 2 from ¾; fuscous; costal half whitish-ochreous from base to about ⅘, and neuration sharply marked by white lines along veins 2-8; some dark reddish-brown suffusion beyond this pale area, and on its lower edge in middle of disc; an oblique white streak from apex curved donwards towards tornus but becoming obsolete between veins 4 and 5; a white terminal line preceded by some darker suffusion: cilia brownish becoming whitish towards tops, and with a white bar at apex. Hindwings grey; cilia light grey.

FIJI, Lautoka, November (H. Phillips); 1 ex. (Brit. Mus.).

Meyrick, Edward (1932). Exotic Microlepidoptera 4: 249

Macropiratis heteromantis, n.sp.

♂. 30 mm. Differs from halieutica only as follows: face vertical; palpi moderate (1½), scales tolerably pointed, terminal joint concealed; antennal ciliations over 1; forewings 2 from ⅔, costal half light brownish-ochreous, dorsal half and terminal area dark fuscous, whitish neural lines and oblique white apical streak as in halieutica; hindwings rather dark grey.

CEYLON, Kalutara, July (F. Mackwood); 1 ex. The singular differences, especially in the shape of head and development of palpi, between these two superficially very similar insects are apparently natural, but further material for investigation is very desirable.

Meyrick, Edward (1932). Exotic Microlepidoptera 4: 249
Alucitidae Pterophoridae Species Lists

Phalaena Alucita Linnaeus, 1758

Binomial nomenclature for animals begins with the 10th edition of Linnaeus Systema Naturae. On page 343 of this volume, Linnaeus divided all Lepidoptera into three genera:

  • Papilio – Butterflies
  • Sphinx – Hawkmoths
  • Phalaena – All other moths

He further divided Phalaena into seven subgroups:

  • Phalaena Bombyx – Various bombycoid, noctuoid and cossid moths
  • Phalaena Noctua – Various noctuoid, cossid and hepialid moths
  • Phalaena Geometra – Mostly geometrid moths
  • Phalaena Tortix – Mostly torticid moths
  • Phalaena Pyralis – Various pyraloid and noctuoid moths
  • Phalaena Tinea – Various smaller Lepidoptera
  • Phalaena Alucita – Six moths with divided wings

The species under Phalaena Alucita were presented as a series running from monodactyla, i.e. “one-fingered”, through to hexadactyla, i.e. “six-fingered”. Unfortunately, as with most other genera proposed in 1758, these six do not form a good clade. The first five fall within the modern Pterophoridae and last within the family currently known as Alucitidae.

As a result, until well into the last century, different taxonomists used a mixture of the following names and typification schemes.

Current PterophoridaeCurrent Alucitidae
A. monodactyla
O. hexadactyla
P. pentadactyla 
(or P. monodactyla)
O. hexadactyla
P. pentadactyla 
(or P. monodactyla)
A. hexadactyla

In 1964, ICZN Opinion 703 settled on the final arrangement, but large numbers of Pterophoridae (particularly species in the tribe Pterophorini) were originally named in Alucita. More than 100 species in today’s Alucita were originally described in Orneodes.

Alucitidae Species Lists

Many-plume Moths

The many-plume moths (Lepidoptera: Alucitidae) are a small family of insects found on all continents. Most species can easily be recognised since each of their wings is completely divided into a number of fine feathery spines (typically six per wing).

Formerly, the Tineodidae or false plume moths were placed alongside Alucitidae in the superfamily Alucitoidea. However, recent research has shown that the many-plume moths (Heikkilä et al. 2015) fall within the false plume moths. As a result, these two groups are now considered a single family: Alucitidae Leach, 1815. No other groups are currently placed within Aluctoidea.

Although they share the characteristic of divided wings, the plume moths (Lepidoptera: Pterophoridae) evolved separately.

In 2003, Cees Gielis from Naturalis published a catalogue of described species in all these groups (Gielis 2003, Pterophoroidea & Alucitoidea (Lepidoptera) – In: World Catalogue of Insects 4). Cees maintained the digital version of this text, particularly for changes in species and names of Pterophoridae. In 2018, I helped to extract the names and synonymy for 1,463 Pterophoridae species from this document for inclusion within the Catalogue of Life.

Over the last few months, I’ve turned my attention to the section of the catalogue dealing with Alucitoidea, incorporating species described since 2003 and updating synonymy where applicable. Tineodidae are now treated as part of an expanded Alucitidae. In the absence of comprehensive analysis of phylogenetic relationships, there is no support for any organisation of the genera into subfamilies and tribes.

The updated catalogue contains 246 species in 20 genera.