Butterflies and moths in the Scopariinae, Sesiidae, Oecophoridae, and Lycaenidae Families

Species featured on this page

Latin name Common name Family
Sesia apiformis Hornet clearwing moth Sesiidae
Eudonia mercurella   Crambidae
Lysandra coridon Chalkhill blue Lycaenidae
Hofmannophila pseudospretella Brown House Moth Oecophoridae
Phragmatobia fuliginosa Ruby tiger Arctiidae
Eudonia mercurella

Crambidae family

The Crambidae family are sometimes called Grass moths as the adults are often found resting on grass stems during the day time. There are 129 British species.

Eudonia mercurella

On the left is Eudonia mercurella. Wingspan 16 - 19 mm. Adults fly at night from June - September.

The caterpillar feeds on moss. The caterpillar is cream with brown spots, a shiny brown head and first abdominal segment. It is found in woods, heath and grassland.

Sesia apiformis, hornet clearwing moth

Family Sesiidae

There are around 1000 species worldwide, and 14 in the British isles. All in this family have transparent or partly transparent wings and resemble wasps, hornets and other Hymenoptera, also the forewings are vary narrow. Wingspan ranges from 30 - 60 mm. Adults are day fliers, mainly in sunny weather. The Hymenopteran mimicry is believed to confer some protection from predators. The larvae tend to feed in tree-trunks, stems and roots; so are rarely seen. For some species the lifecycle can take as long as 3 years. Usually the eggs are laid singly on the foodplant.

On the left is a preserved specimen of Sesia apiformis, the hornet clearwing moth or hornet moth. As the common name suggests, this moth mimics the hornet.

The hornet clearwing larva feeds in poplar and aspen roots and trunks for around 3 years.

The cocoon is made of gnawed wood and silk, and adults emerge in May, June and July.

The adult female tends to be fatter in the body than the male. The adult wingspan is 33 - 48 mm, and wing length is 15 - 20 mm. It is found in Europe and eastern US, but in the UK its range does not spread as far north as Scotland. It moves with jerky, wasp-like movements, and can even buzz like a hornet. Its habitat includes parks, hedgerows, golf courses, quarries and fens.

Oecophoridae family

There are 25 species in this family in Britain.

On the right is the life stages of the Brown House Moth, Hofmannophila pseudospretella. It is common, and the adult has a wingspan of 15 - 26 mm, and at rest males are 8 mm long and the females 12 mm long. The colour can vary from a dark olive brown to buff, but the thorax and front wings always have dark flecks or spots.

Adult behaviour. When disturbed it will often run into a dark crevice rather then fly.

The larva eats wool, feathers, grains, seeds, dried fruit, wine bottle corks, carpets, upholstery and leather. A fully grown larva can be 20 mm long with a shiny white body and a brown head. It pupates in a tough torpedo-shaped cocoon in the material it has been eating.

Eggs are laid in dust and debris. In heated houses there can be several generations a year.


Hofmannophila pseudospretella, Brown House Moth

Lycaenidae family

These are commonly known as the Hairstreaks, Coppers and Blues. There are 20 British species. The adults are small to medium sized and often metallic-coloured. The beautiful colours are due to the microscopic structures on the scales. Their flight is short, quick and agile. In some species the caterpillars are associated with ants. Many of the caterpillars in this family have a gland on the 7th abdominal segment which can secrete a sweet fluid.

On the left is an adult male Lysandra coridon, chalkhill blue. The female has brown wings with sometimes a trace of blue on the forewings, and is slightly larger. This butterfly is fairly common all over central and southern Europe. In the UK it is found only in south-east England. As its common name suggests it is found on chalk and limestone hills. The adult wingspan is 30 - 36 mm. Adults fly in July and August. In the UK there is one generation a year.

The green eggs are laid in August on Horse-shoe vetch, but do not hatch until the following spring.

The caterpillar feeds on vetches and trefoils, and is carried by ants to a suitable foodplant near the ant's nest. The ants "milk" a gland on the back of the caterpillar which exudes drops of a sweet liquid.

A fully grown caterpillar can be up to 16 mm long, is quite fat, but very tapered at both ends. The body is green with yellow stripes. In the UK the caterpillars feed on horseshoe vetch for about 10 weeks, then pupate on the ground in a greenish-brown cocoon at the base of the foodplant.

Lysandra coridon, adult male, Chalkhill blue butterfly

Ruby tiger Phragmatobia fuliginosa, caterpillar

Arctiidae family

The Arctiidae family includes the Tigers, Ermines and the Footmen. There are 11,000 species world wide, and 33 British species (29 resident and 4 immigrants). The tigers are usually boldly patterned; the Ermine adults usually have whitish wings with black flecks or spots, similar to the ermine fur. Many adults in the family do not feed. The caterpillars are hairy with shiny, almost hairless heads, and the hair can cause irritation. Many of the caterpillars can accumulate toxins from their foodplant that make them distasteful to predators even as adults. The caterpillars pupate in flimsy cocoons, usually above ground in a crevice or low vegetation, which incorporate the hair.

Ruby tiger, Phragmatobia fuliginosa

The Ruby tiger is widespread throughout Europe, and is found in most habitats.

The eggs are laid in batches on the foodplant (see below) in May.

The caterpillar (above) grows up to 35 mm long, and is found in open woodland, downland, meadows and moorland. The foodplants include dock, dandelion, goldenrod and yarrow. The caterpillars feed until autumn, then hibernate at the roots of the foodplant when it is fully grown.

The adult moth flies from April - June, and again from July - September. There are 2 generations a year. It can sometimes be seen flying during the day. Adult wing length is 13 - 19 mm. The forewing is pinkish brown or deep pink with 1 or 2 dark central spots. The hind wing is bright pink and fringed.

Ruby tiger Phragmatobia fuliginosa