Date of Completion


Embargo Period



David Wagner, Charles Henry, Jane O'Donnell

Field of Study

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Master of Science

Open Access

Campus Access


The Zygaenidae (burnets and smoky moths) are a charismatic and widespread family of Microlepidoptera with unusual adult and larval biologies. Many lineages are well studied, especially the Zygaeninae of the western Palaearctic. Adult smoky moths of North America, all of the subfamily Procridinae, are often poorly represented in collections and are in many cases need of taxonomic study. Zygaenid diversity in North America north of Mexico amounts to about 23 described native species (with potentially 3-4 undescribed) and one established exotic species, with the majority found in the deserts and adjacent mountain ranges of Arizona, New Mexico, and western Texas. For most Nearctic species, little is known of their life history, larval morphology, or ecology. This paper details many of the anatomical features and biological aspects of procridine caterpillars north of Mexico based on wild-caught and lab-reared specimens. Larvae share a “mouth-like” gland associated with the spiracles on A2 and A7 and an eversible gland at the base of the first thoracic leg, both of unknown function. Microscopically barbed setae likely play a role in the ability of larvae to cause adverse dermatological reactions (erucism). Larvae of twenty species representing all eight native genera are described in detail and a preliminary larval species key is presented. Hostplant and other life history data for many species are provided here for the first time. All described Nearctic Zygaenidae north of Mexico can be positively identified by their larvae so far as known, although species concepts in Acoloithus, Harrisina, and perhaps other genera are still in need of further study. Both of these genera and Triprocris appear to have cryptic undescribed species in North America. Based on larval morphology and life history data, I propose moving Neofelderia rata into the genus Neoilliberis and thus refer to this species as Neoilliberis rata new comb. throughout.

Major Advisor

David Wagner