Ghost moth

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Ghost moth
Hepialus humuli.jpg
Hepialus Humuli (female).png
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Hepialidae
Genus: Hepialus
Fabricius, 1775
Species: H. humuli
Binomial name
Hepialus humuli
(Linnaeus, 1758)


  • Hepiolus Illiger, 1801
  • Epialus Agassiz, 1847
  • Epiolus Agassiz, 1847
  • Tephus Wallengren, 1869


  • Noctua humuli Linnaeus, 1758
  • Hepialus thulensis Newman, 1865
  • Hepialus humulator Haworth, 1802
  • Hepialus hethlandica Staudinger, 1871
  • Hepialus rosea Petersen, 1902
  • Hepialus albida Spuler, 1910
  • Hepialus azuga Pfitzner, 1912
  • Hepialus grandis Pfitzner, 1912
  • Hepialus dannenbergi Stephan, 1923
  • Hepialus pusillus Stephan, 1923
  • Hepialus rufomaculata Lempke, 1938
  • Hepialus albida Bytinski-Salz, 1939
  • Hepialus roseoornata Bytinski-Salz, 1939
  • Hepialus uniformis Bytinski-Salz, 1939
  • Hepialus faeroensis Dahl, 1954
  • Hepialus fumosa Cockayne, 1955
  • Hepialus radiata Cockayne, 1955
  • Hepialus postnigrescens Lempke, 1961
  • Hepialus postrufescens Lempke, 1961
  • Hepialus griseomaculata van Wisselingh, 1965
  • Hepialus thuleus

The ghost moth (Hepialus humuli), also known as the ghost swift, is a moth of the family Hepialidae. It is common throughout Europe except for the far south-east. This species is often considered the only species in the genus Hepialus and a number of previously included species is now reclassified into other genera. However, other authorities retain a number of species in the Hepialus genus.

The male has a wingspan of about 44 mm and both forewings and hindwings are pure white (although in H. h. thulensis, found in Shetland and the Faroe Islands, there are buff-coloured individuals). The female is larger (wingspan about 48 mm) and has yellowish-buff forewings with darker linear markings and brown hindwings. The adults fly from June to August and are attracted to light. The species overwinters as a larva.

The ghost moth gets its name from the display flight of the male, which hovers, sometimes slowly rising and falling, over open ground to attract females. In a suitable location several males may display together in a lek.

The larva is whitish and maggot-like and feeds underground on the roots of a variety of wild and cultivated plants (see list below). The species can be an economically significant pest in forest nurseries.

The term ghost moth is sometimes used as a general term for all Hepialids.


  • Hepialus humuli humuli
  • Hepialus humuli thulensis Newman, 1865 (Great Britain, Faroe Islands)

Recorded food plants[edit]

Additional species which may be included in Hepialus[edit]

Chinese authors retain a number of species in Hepialus. Most of these are placed in the genus Thitarodes by others. Species retained in Hepialus include:

Species previously included in the genus Hepialus[edit]

Species previously placed in the genus Hepialus include:



  • Chinery, Michael: Collins Guide to the Insects of Britain and Western Europe, 1986 (Reprinted 1991)
  • Skinner, Bernard: Colour Identification Guide to Moths of the British Isles, 1984

External links[edit]