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Recent works using molecular methods placed Metarbelidae as one of the seven families of Cossoidea (van Nieukerken et al. 2011).
It seems that Metarbelidae could be closely related to the very rare Ratardidae which occur scattered in Southeast-Asia and in the northeastern Himalaya. Both families share several morphological features, e.g. having only one strong anal vein on the forewing as well as the deep, 8-shaped ovipositor lobes (Holloway 1986; Holloway pers. comm. 2013).
Ongoing studies suggest that the family Metarbelidae ranges from mainland Africa and Madagascar across the southern Arabian Peninsula (Afrotropical Region) via Nepal and India to Southeast Asia (Lehmann 2008b). While the Metarbelidae comprise probably less than 50 species in the Oriental Region the family comprises many more than 400 species on mainland Africa alone including a few species on Madagascar and the Arabian Peninsula. Due to this high diversity the Metarbelidae were first treated by Lehmann (2008a) as a typical element of the African fauna.
A particular association of Metarbelidae to legume-dominated forests and woodlands has been emphasized by Lehmann (2008a) based on 14 years of field research in southeast coastal Kenya (Lehmann & Kioko 2005).
Ongoing studies confirm that the Metarbelidae are dependent on forests and woodlands having a high diversity and endemism on old forest and woodland sites (very often dominated by woody legumes) e.g., in the coastal forests of Kenya/Tanzania, in the miombo woodlands of Malawi, in the tropical lowland rain forests of Ivory Coast, Cameroon/Gabon/Congo (Lehmann 2011) and in the Afromontane forests of the Albertine Rift region (Lehmann 2012). The recently described genus Shimonia, occurring in the Congo Basin and adjacent Rwenzori Mountains and Katangan Copper Bow, is considered as probably one of the most basal or ancient metarbelid genera (Lehmann & Rajaei 2013).
Little is known about the adult Metarbelid moths and their immature stages and habitats. Edwards et al. (1998) stated that the eggs are of a "flat type" usually laid in groups, and that the larvae shelter in short tunnels during the day, have a rugulose head which is not overlapped by the prothorax and have a wide gap between ocelli 2 and 3. The larvae feed gregariously on bark before boring into the wood and tunneling up into larger branches. Pupation takes place in the tunnel (De Villiers & Matthee 1973).