Thursday, 25 February 2010

Featured insect: Immetalia aurea (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)

While searching for some information on Pacific moths for a colleague, I found the following species: Argyrolepidia megisto. Isn't it pretty! It is a member of the subfamily Agaristinae in the large and cosmopolitan family Noctuidae which includes such infamous creatures as Helicoverpa armigera, the species within Heliothis and the various cutworms. Unfortunately these bad few taint the rest of the family which mind their own business and don't feed on plants that we find useful. The Agaristinae are primarily found in tropical regions and tend to be bright and gaudy creatures. These galleries of the North American, Australian and Borneo species give particularly good displays of how beautiful these things can get. It's not only the adults that look good... the caterpillars also look spectacular.

The site that hosts this photo, The Papua Insects Foundation is an excellent site that appears to be well-maintained and updated and is thus a very, very valuable resource for entomology in general and for Pacific entomology in particular. It is especially good when it is taken into account that West Papua is the lesser-known half of the most diverse island in the world (though Borneo and Madagascar might give it a bit of a run for the title...).

Another good resource for this part of the world is "The families of Malesian moths and butterflies", a preview of which is available for all on Google books. Unfortunately it is not complete, but thankfully a number of the colour plate are reproduced.

Finally, for those of a taxonomic bent, the Natural History Museum hosts a database of butterfly and moth generic names which gives information on type species, authority, availability and a reference to the description. Pretty handy if you're looking for that info, but rather dry if you're not...

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