Shannon M. Murphy, John T. Lill, Marc E. Epstein
The Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 65 (3), 137-152, (1 September 2011) https://doi.org/10.18473/lepi.v65i3.a1
KEYWORDS: Limacodidae, Megalopygidae, oviposition behavior, flight times, larval survival, larval growth rate
The moth family Limacodidae is notable for its fascinating larval stages, but with the exception of a few important pest species, the natural history of these moths is still poorly known. The goal of this project was to investigate the natural history of moths in the family Limacodidae, as well as a species in the related family Megalopygidae, from the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. The specific objectives of this study were to (ordered by life cycle from adult to larva): 1) summarize data on the flight times of the adult moths; 2) investigate the oviposition behavior of female moths, specifically their tendency to lay eggs in clusters; 3) document the phenology and host associations of locally-collected larvae; 4) develop an accurate means for assessing larval developmental stage; and 5) determine whether larval growth and cocoon weight predict lifetime fitness for females. In an adult flight dataset that spans ∼130 years, we found significant interspecific variation in flight periods collectively encompassing a season running from April through November. Several pairs of sympatric congeners differed significantly in median flight times suggesting temporal niche separation. We found that for two of the species we studied, Acharia stimulea and Euclea delphinii, females laid eggs in clusters, but females of the other species mostly laid eggs singly. We generally found limacodid larvae from early June through October and most limacodid species were found as larvae on at least eight different host plant species, which supports the presumption that most species are generalists. For A. stimulea and E. delphinii larvae, we developed a set of equations so that we may estimate larval mass given larval body length, which allows us to estimate a larva's developmental stage in the field. Lastly, we found that for both A. stimulea and E. delphinii, there was a positive relationship between a female's cocoon mass and the number of offspring she produced the following year; thus, for these two limacodid species, cocoon mass is a predictor of lifetime fitness for females. Here we present all of the natural history observations and data that we have collected and analyzed from a variety of sources.