|The Festoon, Apoda limacodes|
|About 400 genera,
Limacodidae or Euclidae is a family of moths in the superfamily Zygaenoidea or the Cossoidea; the placement is in dispute. They are often called slug moths because their caterpillars bear a distinct resemblance to slugs. They are also called cup moths because of the shape of their cocoons.
The larvae are often liberally covered in protective stinging hairs, and are mostly tropical, but occur worldwide, with about 1000 described species and probably many more as yet undescribed species.
They are small, hairy moths, with reduced or absent mouthparts and fringed wings. They often perch with their abdomens sticking out at 90 degrees from the thorax and wings. North American moths are mostly cryptic browns, sometimes marked with white or green, but the hag moth mimics bees.
The final instar constructs a silk cocoon and hardens it with calcium oxalate excreted from the malpighian tubules. Cocoons have a circular escape hatch, formed from a line of weakness in the silk matrix. It is forced open by the pupa just prior to emergence of the adult.
The larvae are typically very flattened, and instead of prolegs they have suckers. The thoracic legs are reduced, but always present and they locomote by rolling waves rather than walking with individual prolegs. They even use a lubricant, a kind of liquified silk, to locomote on.
Larvae might be confused with the similarly flattened larvae of Lycaenid butterflies, but those caterpillars have prolegs, are always longer than they are wide, and are always densely covered in short or long setae (hair-like bristles). The head is extended during feeding in the Lycaenids, but remains covered in Limacodidae.
Many Limacodidae larvae are green and fairly smooth (e.g. Yellow shouldered slug, pictured), but others have tubercles with urticating hairs and may have bright warning colours. The sting can be quite potent, causing severe pain.
The larval head is concealed under folds. First instars skeletonize the leaf (avoiding small veins and eating mostly one surface), but later instars eat the whole leaf, usually from the underside. Many species seem to feed on several genera of host plants.
Research on Limacodidae larvae in temperate forests of eastern North America has found that they prefer glabrous leaves, presumably because the trichomes of pubescent leaves interfere with their movement.
Underside of monkey slug, showing slimy pad in place of prolegs
Larva of the Yellow-shouldered slug, showing typical body shape
Sibine stimulea (Saddleback caterpillar) larva
Larva of Parasa pastoralis
Stinging Rose caterpillars, Parasa indetermina
- Hag moth or Monkey slug, Phobetron pithecium
- Ochre-winged hag moth or Yellow-shouldered slug, Lithacodes fasciola
- Spiny oak slug, Euclea delphinii
- Crowned slug, Isa textula
- Skiff moth, Prolimacoides badia
- Nettle caterpillar, Latoia viridissima
- Saddleback caterpillar, Sibine stimulea
- Scoble, MJ. (1992). The Lepidoptera: Form, Function and Diversity. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198540311
- "New Species of Yellow Slug Moth Found in China". Scientific Computing. Advantage Business Media. 4 June 2013. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
- Wagner, DL. (2005). Caterpillars of Eastern North America. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691121437
- Epstein, ME. (1996). "Revision and phylogeny of the limacodid-group families, with evolutionary studies on slug caterpillars (Lepidoptera: Zygaenoidea)." Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology. No. 582. ISSN 0081-0282
- Marshall, SA. (2006). Insects: Their natural history and diversity. Firefly Books. ISBN 9781552979006
- Lill, JT, Marquis, RJ, Forkner, RE, Le Corff, J, Holmberg, N, & Barber, NA. (2006). "Leaf pubescent affects distribution and abundance of generalist slug caterpillars (Lepidoptera: Limacodidae)." Environmental Entomology 35(3): 797-806. ISSN 0046-225X
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