Approximately 13 genera and over 100 species (Heppner 1991) have been reported from nearly every major region except Antarctica and New Zealand. Because of their minute size and diurnal habit Heliozelidae are seldom collected. The neotropical fauna is especially poorly known. The most plesiomorphic genus. Plesiozela, is known from temperate areas in austral South America (Karsholt and Kristensen, 2003). Most of the species are included within the genera Heliozela. Antispila, and Coptodisca.
Nearctic, Palearctic, Oriental, Ethiopian, Neotropical, Australian, Oceanic Island
from 2 to 5
Larval head description:
Head mostly prognathous, strongly depressed with 2- 5 pairs of stemmata.
Body setae on verrucae:
Body setae on chalazae:
Body setae on scoli:
Larval body description:
Body white to pale yellow or green, usually with brownish to black pronotum and anal plate, sometimes with a series of nearly contiguous, mid-dorsal dark plates down length of body; 4-6 mm in length.
Larval thorax description:
Legs usually absent, well developed, 5-segmented in some Heliozela (Davis 1987). Coxal plates, if present, separated. Paired ventral and dorsal ambulatory calli sometimes present on T1 and 2.
Pairs of thoracic legs:
from 0 to 3
Larval abdomen description:
Prolegs either absent or nearly so. Some Antispila and Coptodisca with fused, ventral ambulatory calli on A3-6; paired dorsal and ventral call1 also present on A8 in Coptodisca, but only a single mid-dorsal callus on A8 in Antispila.
Pairs of abdominal legs:
from 0 to 4
multiserial, in longitudinal rows
Crochet arrangement description:
Crochets usually absent, present on A3-6 in some Heliozela and consisting of multiserial rows of simple, enlarged spines resembling those of Adelidae except planta sometimes not separated mesally; crochets always absent on A10.
Anal comb on A10:
The pupa is very small with a length ranging usually between 2-3 mm. Cuticle thin, transparent. Head smoothly round; antenna short, less than half the length of wing; scape cylindrical. Abdomen with dense patches of minute. scattered dorsal spines; segments A2-8 movable in male, A2-7 in female (Mosher 1916). Spiracles either raised or flush.
Pupal tergal spines:
Spines as modified cremaster:
Number of rows of tergal spines:
Pupation occurs inside larval case.
Adult Abdomen Morphology
Female genitalia description:
Oviscapt with depressed, moderately broad apex terminating in 4-5 minute cusps. Spermatheca with lateral lagena (Razowski and Wojtusiak 1978). Ductus bursae sometimes with small spines; corpus bursae entirely membranous, without signa.
Female pregenital sexual scales:
Female oviduct opening:
Male pregenital sexual scales:
Male genitalia description:
Uncus indistinct, shallowly bilobed. Vinculum well developed with an elongate, broad, V-shaped saccus. Valvae with a single pair of pectinifers, each bearing about 5-20 spines. Juxta slender, sagittate. Aedoeagus an elongate tube usually equalling length of saccus; cornuti present.
Sternum 5 gland:
Adult abdomen description:
Anterior third of S2 with broad U-shaped caudal rim; S7 of female with caudal margin rounded.
phallotheca and aedeagus (phallus)
Adult Thorax Morphology
Adult thorax description:
Lateral angles of laterocervical sclerites broad, triangular. Metafurca with dorsal apophyses moderate to well developed, arising perpendicular from mesa1 lamella free from secondary arms of metafurca sternum.
Number of tibial spurs foreleg:
Number of tibial spurs midleg:
Number of tibial spurs hindleg:
Legs with tibial spur pattern of 0-2-4; epiphysis usually present, absent in Coptodisca.
Forewing length from base of forewing to the apex (mm):
from 1.7. to 7.0
Forewing radius with 3 or 4 branches; Rs4 stalked to M1 and terminating on costa near apex; discal cell either open or closed; accessory cell absent; M with 1 or 2 branches; CuA with 1-2 branches; 1A + 2A without basal fork;
Forewing anal vein notation:
Forewing basal loop:
Number of Rs veins in forewing:
from 2 to 3
Number of M veins in forewing:
from 1 to 2
Forewing upper surface with microtrichia:
Hindwing anal vein notation:
Number of anal veins reaching margin:
from 1 to 2
Hindwing cell vein:
Number of Rs veins in hindwing:
Number of M veins in hindwing:
from 1 to 2
present, with frenulum
Wing coupling description:
Frenulum a single large bristle in male with 4-6 smaller costal setae and with usually 2 small bristles in female.
Forewings broadly lanceolate, index 3.4- 3.6; microtrichia mostly restricted to subhumeral and subanal areas; scales often lustrous; male retinaculum a triangular lobe from costa; retinaculum consisting of 3-4 stout, curved spines from a small swelling at base of Sc.
Hindwings more slender, lanceolate, index 0.2-0.28; MCuA crossvein absent, discal cell open; M with 1 or 2 branches; 1A + 2A usually fused, rarely divided near margin.
Adult Head Morphology
Number of labial palp segments:
Labial palpus modification:
Labial palpi moderately short, 3-segmented, drooping.
Number of maxillary palp segments:
from 3 to 5
Number of chaetosomata:
Proboscis moderate to long, 1.5-2.0X the length of labial palpi, unscaled, occasionally with base concealed by elongate, lamellar scales from labrum.
Head vertex scaling:
very rough, very smooth
Female scape description:
Scape smooth, entirely covered with usually iridescent scales; pecten absent.
Female flagellomere description:
Flagellum filiform, fully scaled to apex but more sparsely scaled ventrally; a single ring of scales per segment.
Male scape description:
Same as female
Male flagellomere description:
Same as female
Antennal sensillum present
Number of flagellomere scale rows:
General antennae description:
Antennae 0.4-0.6 the length of forewing.
Adult head description:
Vertex typically smooth with broad, laminate, iridescent scales directed down over similarly smooth frons; head rough with pilform scales in one South American genus, Plesiozela (Karsholt & Kristensen, 2003). Eyes small, interocular index 0.6-0.7: cornea with sparse, scattered interfacetal microsetae. Pilifers present or absent. Mandibles vestigial. Maxillary palpi reduced in length, not geniculate, usually 3 -5 short segments, reduced to 1 minute segment in Coptodisca.
The principle autapomorphy for the family is the loss of the M-CuA crossvein in the hindwing.
Life History and Behavior
Life History: Immature Stages
Pupation inside larval case with pupa partially extruded at eclosion.
Larval food habits description:
Life history larvae:
Most first instar larvae begin a short, serpentine mine that is abruptly enlarged into a small, full depth blotch with the frass retained inside the mine. All instars mine except the last, which constructs a flat, oval case by cutting sections from the upper and lower epidermis of the mine and joining them with silk. The lenticular shape of the case, which is either carried or dragged by the larva, provides the origin of this family's common name. 'shield bearers'. In most instances the larvae release a silk strand to lower themselves usually to the ground to pupate amongst leaf litter. Sometimes the cases are attached to the bark of the host plant. Abandoned mines with small oval holes are characteristic of the leaf damage caused by these insects. Some Heliozela mine twigs, petioles, leaf ribs, or initiate galls (Needham et al. 1928, McGuffin and Neunzig 1985).
Description of egg life history:
The egg is poorly known; it is inserted singly into host tissue by the female.
Life History: Adults
Most species are probably univoltine, less commonly bivoltine.
Evolution and Systematics
No fossil record known
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage
|Specimen Records:||300||Public Records:||69|
|Specimens with Sequences:||234||Public Species:||21|
|Specimens with Barcodes:||209||Public BINs:||23|
|Species With Barcodes:||54|
A family of primitive monotrysian moths in the order Lepidoptera, Heliozelidae are small, metallic day-flying moths with shiny smooth heads. In Europe the small adult moths (genera Antispila and Heliozela) are seldom noticed as they fly quite early in the Spring. The larvae are leaf miners and the vacated leaf mines are distinctive because the larva leaves a large hole at the end.
The family is worldwide but the recently discovered genus Plesiozela from southern South America (which has five segments in the labial palps) may represent the sister group of living heliozelids (Karsholt and Kristensen, 2003).
|Wikispecies has information related to: Incurvarioidea|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Heliozelidae.|
- Davis, D.R. (1999). The Monotrysian Heteroneura. Ch. 6, pp. 65-90 in Kristensen, N.P. (Ed.). Lepidoptera, Moths and Butterflies. Volume 1: Evolution, Systematics, and Biogeography. Handbuch der Zoologie. Eine Naturgeschichte der Stämme des Tierreiches / Handbook of Zoology. A Natural History of the phyla of the Animal Kingdom. Band / Volume IV Arthropoda: Insecta Teilband / Part 35: 491 pp. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York.
- Heppner, J. B. (1984). Heliozelidae. Pages 18-19 in Atlas of Neotropical Lepidoptera. 2. Checklist. pt. 1, Micropterigoidea-Immoidea. J. B. Heppner, ed. W. Junk, The Hague, Boston.
- Karsholt, O. and N. P. Kristensen. 2003. Plesiozela, gen. nov. from temperate South America: apparent sister-group of the previously known Heliozelidae (Lepidoptera: Incurvarioidea: Heliozelidae). Invertebrate Systematics, 17(1): 39-46.