Moths of the Amazon
Superfamily - HEDYLOIDEA
Family - HEDYLIDAE
Satipo, Peru ©
All butterflies and moths belong to the order Lepidoptera. This is
split into 34 superfamilies, each with particular characteristics.
95% of the species in these superfamilies are nocturnal insects, and
are commonly called moths.
Positioned ( in evolutionary and systematic terms ) somewhere in the
middle of all these moths are two particular superfamilies - the
Hesperioidea and Papilionoidea.
comprises of a single family Hesperiidae. Its members are called
Skippers, and are generally thought of as being butterflies. The
Papilionoidea comprises of 6 families. Five of these - the
Papilionidae, Lycaenidae, Riodinidae, Pieridae and Nymphalidae have
always been regarded as butterflies.
In 2011 scientists decided as a result of molecular analysis that
the moth family Hedylidae had more in common with the traditional
butterfly families than with other moths. Consequently the Hedylidae
were transferred to the Papilionoidea, and are now regarded as
butterflies! In terms of systematics the Papilionoidea are
positioned between the moth superfamilies Geometroidea and
35 species of the family Hedylidae are nocturnal and moth-like in
The early stages however have many butterfly-like characteristics.
The eggs for example are structurally closer to those of Pieridae
and Nymphalidae than to moth eggs. The caterpillars have horn-like
processes like Apaturinae, a bifid tail as found in Satyrinae, and
secondary setae as found in Pieridae. They also have an "anal comb"
used for expelling droppings - a characteristic of the Hesperiinae.
The pupae likewise have structural characteristics more
representative of butterfly pupae, and are secured to the substrate
with a silken girdle, just like those of the Pieridae and
Microscopic examination of the legs, wing veins, internal organs and
genitalia of adult Hedylidae offers yet more evidence of their
affinity to butterflies, although they also have many
characteristics more typical of moths - unclubbed antennae, a
frenulum to link the fore and hindwings during flight, and nocturnal
nocturnal moths, regardless of family, have "ears" which they use to
detect approaching bats. If they sense a bat approaching they take
immediate evasive action, twisting and diving to escape being eaten.
In most moth families the hearing organs are located at the base of
the abdomen, but Hedylidae and a small number of butterflies ( e.g.
Hamadryas ) have these organs on the
underside of their wings.
All Hedylidae are
placed in the same genus - Macrosoma.
There are 35 species distributed variously from Mexico to Bolivia.
The greatest concentration is in southern Peru where at least 26
Macrosoma species occupy a wide range
of forest habitats, at altitudes between sea level and at least
The larvae are similar in appearance to those of Satyrine
butterflies. The various species utilise a wide range of foodplants
in the families Malvaceae, Melastomataceae, Euphorbiaceae,
Malpighiaceae. They usually rest stretched out along the midrib of
leaves, which they skeletonise, often completely defoliating
Hedylidae are nocturnal, and are commonly attracted to tungsten and
fluorescent lighting, but there are at least 2 day-flying species
found in Mexico.
characteristically rest in the posture shown in the image at the top
of the page, with the hindwings held away from the abdomen and half
hidden behind the outspread forewings. They usually lean back so that
the forewings are held well clear of the substrate but the hindwings