Harvard University's Caribbean Insects: Thysanura

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Lepidoptera have four membraneous wings, largely or entirely covered with scales. They have sucking mouthparts, the proboscis, usually in the form of a coiled tube. Mandibles and maxillary palps are generally vestigial or lacking, while labial palps are usually well developed and conspicuous. All members of Lepidoptera have four discrete stages in the life cycle (egg, caterpillar, pupa, and the adult), each with particular characteristics, behaviors, and requirements.

Lepidoptera can be diagnosed by the presence of scales covering the wings and body, and the presence of the epiphysis, a cuticular flap on the inside of the foreleg, which is used by many moths to clean the antennae. They also produce apyrene (anucleate) sperm, incapable of fertilization (in some species up to 80% of the sperm is apyrene). Butterflies derive from within one or two moth lineages, and recent phylogenetic reconstructions suggest that butterflies have their closest relatives in the Hedylidae, a group of neotropical moths. The most recent higher classification for the Lepidoptera (Kristensen, 1999) recognizes 46 superfamilies, all but two of which (the Hesperioidea and Papilionoidea) are moths.

(From Wagner, D. L. 2001. Moths. Encyclopedia of Biodiversity Volume 4. Academic Press: 249-270.)


Worldwide: 146,565 described species, Neotropics: 44,791 described species

Worldwide: 13,753 described species, Neotropics: 5,341 described species


Please browse and download our Field Guides to insect families and see our Caribbean Taxonomic Literature lists for available PDFs.


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