Adelidae is a widely distributed family of nearly 300 species that occur on all continents except Antartica and are absent from New Zealand.Two subfamilies have been proposed (Küppers 1980): Adelinae (maxillary palpi 2-3-segmented; male valvae without pectinifers);including Adela,Cauchas, and Nemophora. Nematopogoninae (maxillary palpi usually 4-5-segmented; male valvae usually with pectinifers); including Ceromitia and Nematopogon.
Nearctic, Palearctic, Oriental, Ethiopian, Neotropical, Australian, Oceanic Island
Head mostly prognathous with 6 pairs of stemmata; AF2 absent; adfrontal sclerite elongate, extending to deeply incised epicranial notch.
Body setae on verrucae:
Body setae on chalazae:
Body setae on scoli:
Larval body description:
Body slightly depressed, white to green with darkly pigmented plates and head; 7-12 mm in length.
Larval thorax description:
Thorax with prespiracular sclerite fused to pronotum; spiracle usually free from prespiracular sclerite. Coxal plates fused, at least on prothorax. Legs well developed; tarsi without enlarged, squamiform seta.
Larval abdomen description:
Prolegs greatly reduced on segments 3-6, absent on last segment (10).
multiserial, in transverse rows
Crochet arrangement description:
Crochets arranged in several more or less definite transverse rows that gradually decrease in size from center.
Anal comb on A10:
Length 5-7 mm. Vertex smoothly rounded. Antennae usually surpassing abdomen, then loosely encircling caudal end of abdomen 1-4 times. Abdomen with 1-2 rows of dorsal spines on most segments; segments 3-7 movable (Common 1990). Pupation inside larval case with the pupal exuvium partially extruded.
Pupal tergal spines:
Spines as modified cremaster:
The larval case also serves as a cocoon.
Adult Abdomen Morphology
Female genitalia description:
Oviscapt with a compressed, acute apex usually minutely serrated along ventral keel. Spermatheca without lateral lagena. Ductus and corpus bursae membranous, without spines or signa.
Female pregenital sexual scales:
Female oviduct opening:
Male pregenital sexual scales:
Male genitalia description:
Uncus reduced, often bilobed; tegumen a moderate to narrow, dorsal band. Vinculum well developed with an elongate, broad to slender, V- to Y-shaped saccus. Valvae with 0-3 pairs of either sessile or pedunculate pectinifers; pectinifers absent in Adela, Cauchus, Nemophora, and some subgenera of Ceromitia. Juxta slender, sagittate. Aedoeagus an elongate tube; cornuti usually present. apex sometimes also armed with large, exogenous spines.
Sternum 5 gland:
Adult abdomen description:
Anterior third of sternum 2 with a slender, U-shaped caudal rim; sternum 7 of female triangular to subrectangular, caudal margin rounded to slightly emarginate.
phallotheca and aedeagus (phallus)
Adult Thorax Morphology
Adult thorax description:
Laterocervical sclerites with slender, elongate. lateral processes. Metafurca with dorsal apophyses well developed, arising perpendicular from mesa1 lamella free from secondary arms of metafurcasternum.
Legs with tibial spur pattern of 0-2-4.
Forewing length from base of forewing to the apex (mm):
from 3.5 to 12
Forewing radius with 5 branches, Rs2 and 3 either separate, connate or stalked; Rs4 usually to costa in most genera. ter- minating on termen below apex in Nematopogon; accessory cell present; base of M faint, rarely forked within cell; 1A + 2A with short basal fork; S retinaculum a long costal fold extending under base of Sc. Hindwing M1 and 2 either separate or stalked; 1A + 2A with short basal fork.
Forewing cell veins:
Forewing anal vein notation:
Forewing basal loop:
Forewing upper surface with microtrichia:
Hindwing cell vein:
present, with frenulum
Forewings slender, W/L ratio 0.3-0.37; microtrichia usually pre- sent, reduced in some genera.
Hindwings similar to forewings in width, W/L ratio usually 0.35. Male frenulum a single stout bristle, usually accompanied by several smaller setae along costal margin; female frenulum consisting of 3-4 smaller bristles in a row along base of costa.
Adult Head Morphology
Labial palpus modification:
Labial palpus variable in length, segments II and III usually rough and clothed with long, piliform scales.
Proboscis usually elongate, 1.5-2.5X the length of labial palpus; reduced, about equal to labial palpus in some African Ceromitia; basal 1/4 - 1/3 scaled.
Head vertex scaling:
Male scape description:
Scape sometimes slightly swollen in male.
Antennal sensillum present
General antennae description:
Antennae usually longer than forewing in both sexes; up to 3X length of forewing and arising nearly contiguous in males; antennae shorter in genus Cauchas, 0.5- 1.2X the length of forewing in both sexes; pecten usually present, ab- sent in Cauchas; flagellum filiform, usually fully scaled to apex with two annuli of appressed scales per segment, more thinly scaled ventrally; basal 0.2-0.6 of antenna roughly scaled in some Adela. Males of some Adela and all Nemophora with variable number of enlarged mediodorsal spines along base of flagellum.
Adult head description:
Vertex rough, densely covered with piliform scales: frons usually rough, occasionally covered by smooth, broad scales. Eyes small to large, interocular index 0.5-1.7; interfacetal microsetae scattered; eyes dimorphic in most Adela and Nemophora with that of males enlarged, more approximate at vertex, and usually with facets in upper 2/3 of eye enlarged. Maxillary palpi 2-5-segmented.
Elongate antenna (particularly in the male), usually longer than forewings in both sexes.. Lateral processes of the lateral cervical sclerite (laterocervicale) slender.. High number of ovarioles per ovary (10-20), (Nielsen, 1980, Nielsen and Davis, 1985). Proboscis with scales
Life History and Behavior
Largely because of the secretive and sometimes omnivorous feeding habits of the larva, surprisingly little is known about the biology of most species in this relatively well known family of moths. Eggs are inserted into plant tissue in which the larva may or may not feed (Heath and Pelham-Clinton 1976, Nielsen 1985). According to Chretien (1894), during late spring and early summer the eggs of Nematopogon metaxella are inserted into any convenient herbaceous plant. Upon hatching, the larva immediately drops to the ground where it constructs a flattened, oval case from soil particles and eventually dead leaves (Chretien 1894). The larva feeds on both living and dead plants and does not complete its development until the following spring. Kuroko (1961)reports a somewhat different life history for Nemophora raddei that may more accurately reflect the univoltine norm for the family. In this species the eggs are inserted into the ovaries of Salix sieboldiana in spring. The first instar larva feeds on the ovules as well as the ovary wall. After moulting, it constructs a small, oval case and descends on a silken thread to the ground where it prefers to feed on dead leaves of the host Salix and Castanea crenata. The mature larva (6th instar) pupates near the end of October, with the adult emerging the following spring. The eggs of most Adela are inserted into the flower ovary of their host wherein the first instar larvae feed on the developing seeds. From the second instar on, the larvae become casebearers and feed on the lower or fallen leaves of their host (Heath and Pelham-Clinton 1976). First instar larvae of some Adelidae may mine leaves (Common 1990). Over 20 families of angiosperms and one gymnosperm (Pinaceae) have been reported as hosts (Küppers 1980).
In contrast to most Nematopogoninae which tend to be drab in color and crepuscular or nocturnal, the adults of Adelinae are often metallic and predominantly diurnal. The males of many species of Adela and Nemophora swarm, usually near the species' host plant or oviposition site. The enlarged compound eyes in these males are an adaptation for swarming (McAlpine and Munroe 1968, Downes 1969). The development of specialized, spinose setae and scales near the base of the antennae of swarming males may be further adaptations associated with this courtship behavior (Nielsen 1980), possibly for use in sound production or visual signaling (Bland 1977).
Life History: Immature Stages
Poorly known; inserted singly into plant tissue.
Evolution and Systematics
Systematic and taxonomic history
In a phylogeny for the Incurvarioidea proposed by Nielsen and Davis (1985), the Adelidae was placed near the base of the superfamily, distinguished in part from the most basal taxon, Heliozelidae, by the loss of the lateral lagena on the spermatheca. Some mtDNA sequence data also links the problematic North American genus Tridentaforma to this family (Brown et al. 1994). The lateral cervical sclerites of Tridentaforma, however, differ from the typical adelid form.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage
Specimens with Sequences:780
Specimens with Barcodes:649
Species With Barcodes:79
The Adelidae or fairy longhorn moths are a family of monotrysian moths in the lepidopteran infraorder Heteroneura. Most species have at least partially metallic patterns coloration and are diurnal, sometimes swarming around the tips of branches with an undulating flight. Others are crepuscular and have a drab coloration. Fairy longhorn moths have a wingspan of 4-28 millimeters, and males often have especially long antennae, 1-3 times as long as the forewing.
They are widespread across the world and can be found over much of North America and Eurasia from April to June. About 50 species occur in Europe, of which most widely noted is the Green Longhorn (Adela reaumurella) which can sometimes reach great abundance; due to climate change its peak flying season is shifting towards spring. In general, they are more plentiful in the Northern Hemisphere, but the family occurs in the Neotropics, sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia and Australia too.
Adelidae are usually closely restricted to particular hostplants , in which the females insert their eggs or just lay among leaf litter, and the caterpillars make a case, completing their development on the ground. Fairy longhorn moths feed in sunshine on nectar from the flowers of herbaceous (woody) plants.
Fairy longhorn moths belong to the superfamily Incurvarioidea, one of the basal ("monotrysian") branches of the advanced moth infraorder Heteroneura. By Lepidopteran standards, they are thus still rather primitive micromoths. But like other Heteroneura, they already possess the apomorphic sucking proboscis – usually considered a defining feature of Lepidoptera, but actually the most ancestral moths still live on solid food which they chew.
The Adelidae were previously placed as the subfamily Adelinae within the family Incurvariidae.
- Animal biodiversity: An outline of higher-level classification and survey of taxonomic richness - Lepidoptera
- Kuchlein & Ellis (2004)
- Edwards (2007), FE (2009)
- Davis (1999)
- Bradley, J.D.; Fletcher, D.S. (1979). A Recorder's Log Book or Label List of British Butterflies and Moths. London: Curwen Books.
- Wikispecies (2008-OCT-31), FE (2009), and see references in Savela (2003)
- Davis, D.R. (1999): The Monotrysian Heteroneura. In: Kristensen, N.P. (ed.): Handbuch der Zoologie/Handbook of Zoology (Volume IV – Arthropoda: Insecta. Part 35: Lepidoptera, Moths and Butterflies 1): 65-90. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin & New York. ISBN 3-11-015704-7
- Edwards, E.D. (2007): Australian Faunal Directory – Adelidae. Version of 2007-JUN-28. Retrieved 2010-MAY-09.
- Fauna Europaea (FE) (2009): Adelidae. Version 2.1, 2009-DEC-22. Retrieved 2010-MAY-03.
- Kuchlein, J.H. & Ellis, W.N. (2004): Climate-induced changes in the microlepidoptera fauna of the Netherlands and the implications for nature conservation. Journal of Insect Conservation 1(2): 73-80. doi:10.1023/A:1018483026265 PDF fulltext
- Savela, Markku (2003): Markku Savela's Lepidoptera and some other life forms – Adelidae. Version of 2003-DEC-27. Retrieved 2010-MAY-03.
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