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Temporal range: Chattian–Present
White plume moth (Pterophorus pentadactyla) Transylvania.jpg
Pterophorus pentadactyla
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Superfamily: Pterophoroidea
Family: Pterophoridae
Zeller, 1841
Type species
Pterophorus pentadactyla
>90 genera
>1,000 species

The Pterophoridae or plume moths are a family of Lepidoptera with unusually modified wings. Though they belong to the Apoditrysia like the larger moths and the butterflies, unlike these they are tiny and were formerly included among the assemblage called "microlepidoptera".

Description and ecology[edit]

The forewings of plume moths usually consist of two curved spars with more or less bedraggled bristles trailing behind. This resembles the closely related Alucitidae (many-plumed moths) at first glance, but the latter have a greater number of symmetrical plumes. The hindwings are similarly constructed, but have three spars. This unorthodox structure does not prevent flight.[1] A few genera have normal lepidopteran wings.

The usual resting posture is with the wings extended laterally and narrowly rolled up. Often they resemble a piece of dried grass, and may pass unnoticed by potential predators even when resting in exposed situations in daylight. Some species have larvae which are stem- or root-borers while others are leaf-browsers.

Economically important pterophorids include the artichoke plume moth (Platyptilia carduidactyla), an artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) pest in California, while the geranium plume moth (Platyptilia pica)[2] and the snapdragon plume moth (Stenoptilodes antirrhina) can cause damage to the ornamental plants garden geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum) and common snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), respectively. Other plume moths have been used as biological control agents against invasive plant species – Lantanophaga pusillidactyla against West Indian lantana (Lantana camara), Oidaematophorus beneficus against mistflower (Ageratina riparia), Hellinsia balanotes against groundsel bush (Baccharis halimifolia),[3] and Wheeleria spilodactylus against horehound (Marrubium vulgare).[4]


A fossil species from the extant genus Merrifieldia is known from the Oligocene of France.[5][6]


The small group of moths in the genus Agdistopis has often been treated as a subfamily Macropiratinae within the Pterophoridae, but recent research indicates that this group should be considered a separate family.

The family is divided into the following subfamilies, tribes and genera,[7] some species are also listed:
Subfamily Agdistinae

Subfamily Ochyroticinae

Subfamily Deuterocopinae Gielis, 1993

Subfamily Pterophorinae Zeller, 1841


  1. ^ Haynes, K.F. & Birch, M.C. (1984)
  2. ^ MDA (1980)
  3. ^ Palmer, W.A. & Haseler, W.H. (1992)
  4. ^ Baker, J. (2002)
  5. ^ L. Bigot, A. Nel, and J. Nel. 1986. Description de la première espèce fossile connue de Ptérophore (Lepidoptera Pterophoridae). Alexanor 14:283-288
  6. ^ SOHN, JAE-CHEON; LABANDEIRA, CONRAD; DAVIS, DONALD; MITTER, CHARLES (2012-04-30). "An annotated catalog of fossil and subfossil Lepidoptera (Insecta: Holometabola) of the world". Zootaxa. 3286 (1): 1. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.3286.1.1. ISSN 1175-5334.
  7. ^ Gielis, Cees (2000-05-31). "Division of the Pterophoridae into Tribes (Lepidoptera)" (PDF). Quadrifina. 3: 57–60 – via ZOBODAT.


  • Baker, J. (2002): Factors affecting the establishment of a classical biological control agent, the horehound plume moth (Wheeleria spilodactylus) in South Australia. (A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Applied and Molecular Ecology, Adelaide University, Australia) PDF fulltext
  • Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) (1980): Geranium Plume Moth Quarantine. PDF fulltext
  • Palmer, W.A & Haseler, W.H. (1992): Foodplant Specificity and Biology of Oidaematophorus balanotes (Pterophoridae): A North American Moth Introduced into Australia for the Control of Baccharis halimifolia (Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 46(3), 1992: 195-202). PDF fulltext[permanent dead link]
  • Haynes, K.F. & Birch, M.C. (1984): Mate-locating and courtship behaviors of the artichoke plume moth, Platyptilia carduidactyla (Lepidoptera: Pterophoridae) (Environmental Entomology 13.2 1984: 399-408).]

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