What Bug Is That? The guide to Australian insect families.

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Identify families

Major groups

    • Maxillary galeae forming a proboscis (Fig. 41.18D), usually spirally coiled in repose, sometimes secondarily reduced or absent; mandibles small and non-functional. Larvae with articulated spinneret (Figs 41.10A, B) CLADE GLOSSATA (key)
    • Maxillary galeae unmodified, not forming a proboscis (Figs 41.15C, F); mandibles (Figs 41.15B, E) functional. Larvae without a spinneret 2
  2. (1)
    • Labial palps long; fore tibia with a single apical spur, mid tibia with 2 pairs of spurs. Larvae without cranial ecdysial line; with one-segmented antennae and labial palps Agathiphagidae
    • Labial palps short; fore and mid tibial spurs absent. Larvae with ecdysial line; with more than one segment in antennae and labial palps Micropterigidae


Clade Glossata

    • Fore wing with a projecting jugum 2
    • Fore wing with a retinaculum, hind wing with a frenulum 3
  2. (1)
  3. (1)
    • Pseudofrenular bristles absent; S2 with apodemes and without postspiracular connection to T1; female genitalia ditrysian CLADE DITRYSIA (key)
    • Pseudofrenular bristles usually present (Fig. 41.24); S2 without apodemes and usually with postspiracular connection to T1; female genitalia monotrysian 4
  4. (3)
    • Antennal scape with eye-cap (Fig. 41.22A); hind tibiae with prominent spines, minute moths NEPTICULOIDEA
    • Antennal scape without eye-cap; hind tibiae without spines 5
  5. (4)
    • Proboscis scaled; male valvae with prominent, blunt spines often forming comb (pectinifer), ovipositor piercing, without medial sensory ridge, minute moths INCURVARIOIDEA
    • Proboscis unscaled; male valvae without prominent, blunt spines; ovipositor non-piercing, with medial sensory ridge Palaephatidae


Ditrysia Superfamilies or Families

The following is a tentative key utilising readily observable, external features. It is not possible to provide a reliable key to the ditrysian superfamilies without including the structure of the genitalia and skeletal anatomy. Once a family is keyed out, as first confirmation, the relevant image(s) should be checked on the website Australian Moths Online (AMO).

The Heliocosma group and the very rare Simaethistidae (Metaprotus Hampson) are not keyed out but may be recognised from the images provided.

The superfamily classification is still in flux and the scope of superfamilies in the key does not always agree with that used for AMO, hence all the families included in the relevant couplet are spelled out to allow transition from the key to images of AMO.

  2. (1)
  3. (2)
    • Labial palps ascending; fore wing with CuP present near termen; tympanal organs absent Choreutidae
    • Labial palps porrect, beak-like, or ascending; CuP usually absent; tympanal organs present at base of abdomen PYRALOIDEA
  4. (1)
    • Antennae gradually or abruptly clubbed, tip sometimes hooked 5
    • Antennae filiform or tapered, often ciliate, pectinate or plumose 7
  5. (4)
    • Hind wing with frenulum; ocelli present, large; chaetosemata absent Castniidae
    • Hind wing usually without frenulum; ocelli absent; chaetosemata present 6
  6. (5)
    • Antennae widely separated at base, with subapical thickening; fore wing with all veins from discal cell arising sepa- rately Hesperiidae
    • Antennae approximated at base, with apical thickening; fore wing usually with at least some peripheral veins stalked PAPILIONOIDEA
  7. (4)
    • Tympanal organs present in thorax or abdomen (Figs 41.6, 7) 8
    • Tympanal organs absent 13
  8. (7)
  9. (8)
    • Chaetosemata absent 10
    • Chaetosemata present 12
  10. (9)
    • Fore wing broad, usually falcate Drepanidae
    • Fore wing narrow, not falcate 11
  11. (10)
    • Fore wing reddish brown, with silvery marks Dudgeoneidae
    • Fore wing grey TINEOIDEA p.p. (Micrerethista Meyrick)
  12. (9)
    • Fore wing with R veins combined in one branching system; areole often present (Figs 41.62B); hind wing rarely with tails; tympanal organ in both sexes in S2 Geometridae
    • Fore wing with R5 remote from R1-R4 and usually stalked with M1; areole absent; hind wing usually with tail; tympanal organ in male between S2 and S3, in female in S2 Uraniidae
  13. (7)
    • Wings deeply cleft into two or more plumes 14
    • Wings not cleft 15
  14. (13)
    • Hind wing divided into 3 plumes Pterophoridae p.p.
    • Hind wing divided into 6–7 plumes Alucitidae
    • Hind and fore wings both divided into 2 plumes Tineodidae p. p. (Cenoloba Walsingham)
  15. (13)
    • CuP absent as a tubular vein in fore wing 16
    • CuP well developed, at least near margin, as a tubular vein in fore wing 22
  16. (15)
    • Head vestiture of piliform scales; robust, medium-sized to very large species 17
    • Head vestiture of lamellar scales; small to medium-sized species 18
  17. (16)
  18. (16)
    • Hind wing CuA with pecten; fore wings often with raised scales Copromorphidae
    • Hind wing CuA without pecten; fore wing without raised scales 19
  19. (18)
    • Abdominal terga with anterior band of spines; S2 with V-shaped sclerotisation Tineodidae p. p.
    • Abdominal terga without spines; S2 without V-shaped sclerotisation 20
  20. (19)
    • Labial palps beak-like; head very small relative to thorax, body fusiform, male hind tibia often with apical lobe and hair-pencil; fore wing with 2A sinuous Hyblaeidae
    • Labial palps not beak-like; male hind tibia without apical lobe; 2A in fore wing not sinuous 21
  21. (20)
    • Wing long and narrow, not with netted pattern; fore wing without 1A+2A fork; hind wing with specialised scales on underside Pterophoridae
    • Wings broad with fine, netted pattern; fore wing with 1A+2A fork; hind wing without specialised scales on underside Thyrididae
  22. (15)
    • S2 of tineid type (S2 apodemes long and slender); usually small to very small delicate species, usually without raised scales on fore wing 23
    • S2 of tortricoid type (S2 apodemes short and broad); usually robust, small to very large species; sometimes with raised scales on fore wing 24
  23. (22)
  24. (22)
    • Fore wing with raised scales on surface or along dorsum 25
    • Fore wing without raised scales 26
  25. (24)
    • Fore wing with raised scales along dorsum; wing narrow, almost parallel sided EPERMENOIDEA - Epermeniidae
    • Raised scales on fore wing not restricted to dorsum; wing relatively narrow, rectangular COPROMORPHOIDEA
  26. (24)
    • Chaetosemata present; ocelli absent; fore wing without chorda and M stem in cell Immidae
    • Chaetosemata present or absent; ocelli present or absent; fore wing usually with both chorda and M in cell (absent in many Tortricinae) 27
  27. (26)
    • Lower part of frons with ascending scales; ocelli and chaetosemata present; ovipositor lobes leaf-like Tortricidae
    • Lower part of frons without ascending scales; ocelli and chaetosemata rarely both present; ovipositor lobes not leaf-like 28
  28. (27)
    • M tubular and forked in forewing cell; chaetosemata absent Cossidae
    • M absent from forewing cell or M not present in cell as a complete, forked, tubular vein; chaetosemata present or absent 29
  29. (28)


Lepidoptera are generally identified through images, not complex keys. The provided dichotomous keys are recently updated and adapted from The Insects of Australia (Second Edition, 1991). They provide an identification that can be verified with the images available on Australian Moths Online (AMO)