Butterflies and moths in the Scopariinae, Sesiidae, and Oecophoridae Families

Crambidae family

The Crambidae family are sometimes called Grass moths as the adults are often found resting on grass stems during the day time. There are over 11,500 species in the world and 129 British species.

Eudonia mercurella

Eudonia mercurella

Above is Eudonia mercurella. Wingspan 16 - 19 mm. Adults fly at night from June - September.

The caterpillar feeds on moss. The caterpillar is cream with brown spots, a shiny brown head and first abdominal segment. It is found in woods, heath and grassland.

The Crambinae is a sub-family of the Crambidae, there are 39 species in Britain, nearly all found on grasses and rushes, and they have the common name of grass moths or snout moths.

grass moth

They have a classic resting pose of furled up wings making them hard to see as they rest on grass stems. The caterpillars tend to be stem borers, and some are considered pests. The one above and below has huge palps and wonderful green eyes.

grass moth palps

Family Sesiidae

There are around 1100 species in temperate and tropical regions, and 14 in the British isles. All in this family have transparent or partly transparent wings and resemble wasps, hornets and other Hymenoptera, also the forewings are vary narrow, with a forewing length ranging from 2 - 28 mm. Wingspan ranges from 30 - 60 mm. Adults are day fliers, mainly in sunny weather. The Hymenopteran mimicry is believed to confer some protection from predators. The larvae tend to feed in tree-trunks, stems and roots; so are rarely seen. Many are considered pests as the larvae bore into the stems of commercially reared fruit trees and bushes. For some species the lifecycle can take as long as 3 years. Usually the eggs are laid singly on the foodplant.

Sesia apiformis, hornet clearwing moth

Above is a preserved specimen of Sesia apiformis, the hornet clearwing moth or hornet moth. As the common name suggests, this moth mimics the hornet.

The hornet clearwing larva feeds in poplar and aspen roots and trunks for around 3 years.

The cocoon is made of gnawed wood and silk, and adults emerge in May, June and July.

The adult female tends to be fatter in the body than the male. The adult wingspan is 33 - 48 mm, and wing length is 15 - 20 mm. It is found in Europe and eastern US, but in the UK its range does not spread as far north as Scotland. It moves with jerky, wasp-like movements, and can even buzz like a hornet. Its habitat includes parks, hedgerows, golf courses, quarries and fens.

Sesia bembeciformis, the Lunar hornet moth

Sesia bembeciformis, Lunar hornet moth

Above is Sesia bembeciformis, the Lunar hornet moth. It is similar but smaller than the Hornet moth above, with a fore wing length of 15 - 19 mm. It is found throughout the U. K., but is rarely seen. Adults fly in July and August. The eggs are laid on the bark of sallows and willows, and on hatching burrow into the tree. The caterpillar feeds from August to the following spring in the trunk and roots of sallows and willows usually in damp locations. The caterpillar is preyed on by woodpeckers.

Oecophoridae family

There are 25 species in this family in Britain and around 3000 world wide. Most feed on dead vegetation. Many of the adults are dull coloured. The species we are most familiar with are the clothes moths. More than one species is responsible, but the result, for us, is the same, a debris cluttered hole in a beloved cardigan or similar that we left lying about. Female clothes moths have excellent taste, and will prefer to lay their eggs on the nutritious surface of cashmere or silk, yum yum. They will make do with lesser fabrics when they have to, though.

Hofmannophila pseudospretella, Brown House Moth

Above are the life stages of the Brown House Moth, Hofmannophila pseudospretella. It is common, and the adult has a wingspan of 15 - 26 mm, and at rest males are 8 mm long and the females 12 mm long. The colour can vary from a dark olive brown to buff, but the thorax and front wings always have dark flecks or spots.

 Brown House Moth, Hofmannophila pseudospretella

Adult behaviour. When disturbed it will often run into a dark crevice rather then fly.

The larva eats wool, feathers, grains, seeds, dried fruit, wine bottle corks, carpets, upholstery and leather. A fully grown larva can be 20 mm long with a shiny white body and a brown head. It pupates in a tough torpedo-shaped cocoon in the material it has been eating.

Eggs are laid in dust and debris. In heated houses there can be several generations a year.

White shouldered house moth, Endrosis sarcitrella

White shouldered house moth, Endrosis sarcitrella, adult

White shouldered house moth, Endrosis sarcitrella is above. What a pretty little moth it is. Look at the long fringe to its wings. It is common almost everywhere, and as it is found in heated buildings it can be seen year round. It is also found in bird's nests.

The female lays around 200 eggs close to a food source. The eggs hatch in 1 - 4 weeks.

The caterpillar is white with a brown head, but it is rarely seen as it spins a silken cocoon and feeds at night hiding during the day. Favourite foods include cereals, seeds, potatoes, dried fruit, rotting wood, wool and other textiles, and bird droppings. More recently infestations of caterpillars have been turning up in old stores of rodent bait. The caterpillar stage lasts for 1 - 5 months depending on the quality of food and temperature. Then it pupates in a silken cocoon amongst its food.

Adults emerge after about a month, and live for only 2 - 3 weeks. They are attracted to light. Adult wingspan is 15 - 21 mm, and body length is 7 - 9 mm..

Spilosoma lubricipeda, White ermine

White ermine moth

The White ermine, Spilosoma lubricipeda, above and below is widespread throughout Europe, and as far east as Japan, and common in the British Isles, but not found in Shetland. Its habitat includes gardens, hedgerows, grassland, heathland, woodland and moorland.

The eggs are laid in batches on the foliage of the foodplants in July.

White ermine caterpillar, Spilosoma lubricipeda

The caterpillar is up to 40 mm long with dark brown/black hair in tufts. It has a light red - cream coloured stripe down its back, and a black shiny head. It eats a wide variety of both wild and herbaceous low growing plants.

The caterpillars feed until autumn. Birds find the caterpillar distasteful - probably because of the hairs. Its Latin name, lubricipeda, refers to the speed the caterpillar can run across open ground when searching for a good site to pupate, and means slippery foot.

They pupate in grey silk cocoons in leaf litter.

The moths have a forewing length of 18 - 23 mm. As the common name suggests the forewing is white or cream with numerous black spots, and the rear wing has at least one black spot.

In warmer parts of the U. K. there can be 2 generations a year.