Glossary

1A+2A —
 an unbranched vein thought to have resulted from the fusion of anal veins 1A and 2A into a single vein. It is the most posterior vein on the forewing in many moths and is located near the posterior margin. This is the common state in the superfamily Noctuoidea.
Abdomen —
 the third and posterior-most tagma (body region) of an insect. The ancestral abdomen is believed to have consisted of 11 segments, though most modern insects have fewer.
Aedeagus —
 the male copulatory organ. Characteristics of the aedeagus are often used to separate and identify species. The aedeagus is not visible without dissection.
Anal angle —
 the posterolateral corner of the wing, where the posterior and outer margins meet.
Anal dash —
 a typically short and broad line at the anal angle
Anal vein —
 a longitudinal, unbranched vein that extends from the base of the insect wing to the outer margin. the most posterior of the longitudinal veins of a wing.
Anellus —
 a sclerotized supporting structure that surrounds the base of the aedeagus. The anellus is modified in a few moth species and can be useful for identification (see Lacinipolia pensilis and L. vicina).
Antemedial area —
 the portion of the wing that is located between the basal and antemedial lines.
Antemedial line —
 a thin transverse line found on the basal third of the forewing, between the median and basal lines. This line is located medial to the orbicular and claviform spots when these are present. In the Noctuoidea this line is often double, with the darkest and thickest component bordering the median area, and zigzag in shape.
Anterior —
 the "head" end of an organism, as opposed to the posterior or "tail" end of an organism.
Apical —
 refers to a part of a structure at the furthest distance from the base.
Apical dash —
 a typically short and broad line in the apical area of the wing.
Appendix bursae —
 a part of the internal female genitalia. The portion of the corpus bursae that is not connected to the ductus bursae in species in which the bursa copulatrix is bilobed.
Basal —
 the point of an appendage closest to its attachment to the body. Sometimes referred to as proximal.
Basal area —
 the portion of the wing that is located medial to the basal line.
Basal dash —
 a typically short and broad line at the mid-basal area of the forewing.
Basal line —
 a transverse line extending across the forewing near its base. The most basal of the forewing transverse lines. This line is usually present on the anterior half of the wing, and is darker than the surrounding wing in most moths.
Beaded —
 resembling a string of beads. Usually referring to an antenna. The mid-portion of each segment of a beaded antenna is slightly expanded.
Bipectinate —
 a structure with comb-like or teeth-like structures on both sides. Usually referring to an antenna. Each segment of a bipectinate antenna has elongate distal processes.
Biserrate —
 sawlike or toothed on both sides of a structure. Usually referring to an antenna. Each segment of a biserrate antenna is triangular in shape.
Bivoltine —
 refers to a species that has two generations per year.
Brood —
 the immatures that hatch from eggs laid by a single female at the same time.
Bursa copulatrix —
 a membranous pouch of the female genital system that receives the intromittent organ (aedeagus) of the male during copulation. It is usually divided into a posterior sclerotized tube (the posterior ductus bursae) and an anterior membranous sac (the corpus bursae). The bursa copulatrix is useful for identification purposes but is not visible without dissection
Cell —
 a portion of a wing that is surrounded by veins. For example, discal cells are large cells found on both wings of many moths, including all of the species that are included on this site.
Ciliate —
 fringed with a row of close-fitted setae or hairs.
Clasper —
 A movable sclerotized structure located on the medial surface of the male valve, usually near its mid-point. The shape of the clasper can be useful for identification.
Claviform spot —
 an elongate spot or mark extending laterally from the antemedial line through the median area, toward and sometimes reaching the postmedial line. This spot is usually darker than the surrounding wing, often black.
Cocoon —
 a covering of silk or silk incorporated with other materials such as pieces of leaves and twigs that covers the pupa.
Collar —
 "neck," a structure between the head and the thorax. In the Noctuoidea this term refers to the arched array of scales of the dorsal prothorax. The collar is often in a contrasting color from the head and remaining thorax and is frequently striped with dark transverse lines
Cornutus —
 a slender, heavily sclerotized spine or spines on the surface of the vesica of the male aedeagus. These structures are useful for identification, but are not visible without dissection.
Corona —
 a row of mesially-directed claw-like sclerotized setae located on the cucullus of the male valve. Used for grasping the female during mating.
Corpus bursae —
 the membranous pouch of the female genital system. A spermatophore is deposited into the corpus bursae by the male during mating. The corpus bursae attaches to the anterior end of the ductus bursae and can be single (unisaccate) or be divided (bisaccate). The ductus seminales attaches to the corpus bursae. The shape of the corpus bursae is often useful for identification, but is not visible without dissection.
Cosmopolitan —
 refers to a species that is found throughout all or most of the world, in the appropriate habitat.
Costa —
 the anterior margin of the forewing, sometimes thickened or ridge-like.
Costal margin —
 the anterior margin of the wing.
Crepuscular —
 with activity periods at dusk and/or dawn. Many frequently-seen moths, such as the White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata), are crepuscular.
CuA1 —
 cubital-anal vein 1. Generally arising from the distal cubitus vein and extending to the margin. This vein arises near the posterior end of the discal cell in most members of the Noctuoidea.
CuA2 —
 cubital-anal vein 2. Generally arising approximately midway on the wing cubitus vein and extending to the outer margin.
Cubital vein —
 also called the cubitus. A wing vein arising approximately at the middle of the base of the wing and extending (branched or unbranched) to the wing margin. This vein forms the posterior boundary of the discal cell in the Noctuoidea.
Cucullus —
 the terminal part of the valve in male genitalia. This structure is often broadened and may bear one or more rows of claw-like setae forming a structure called a corona.
Digitus —
 a sclerotized, usually elongate, structure located on the distal third of the valve of the male genitalia of some moths. The presence of a digitus and its shape are useful for identification.
Discal spot —
 a broad contrastingly-colored spot found at the end of the discal cell in some moths. The forewing discal spot is usually referred to as the reniform spot in noctuid moths.
Dissection —
 the process of removing certain internal organs-usually the male and female genitalia-from an insect specimen, in order to examine their structure.
Distal —
 the point of an appendage furthest from its attachment to the body.
Diurnal —
 active during daylight. Unlike butterflies, which are diurnal, most moths are active at night and referred to as nocturnal. A few moth species are strictly diurnal and have adaptations to daytime flight, such as brightly-colored hindwings and reduced eye-size (ellipsoid eyes).
Dorsal —
 refers to the back or the upper side of an organism. For example, a dorsal view would be looking at the animal from above.
Dorsum —
 the back or upper side of an organism.
Ductus bursae —
 the duct in the female genital system that extends from the ostium bursa to the bursa copulatrix. This structure is commonly sclerotized. The ductus bursae cannot be observed without dissection.
Ellipsoid —
 oblong, oval, with equally rounded ends. Commonly refers to reduced eye-size in day-flying moths. The eyes appear small and oval when viewed from the front, rather than large and hemispherical as in most night-flying species. In most of these day-flying species, the sum of the width of the eyes is less than the width of the frons between them.
Elliptical —
 oblong, oval, with equally rounded ends.
Excurved —
 convex, with the apex of the curve directed toward the outer margin. Usually refers to the shape of a wing marking.
Falcate —
 bent or curved, sickle-shaped. This adjective is commonly applied to the apex of the forewing.
Fasciculate —
 bundled, especially a bundle of setae that arise from a common source.
Femur —
 the third segment of the insect leg. Often a large and elongate segment, sometimes with some ornamentation or identifying structures.
Filiform —
 hair-like or threadlike, usually referring to an antenna.
Flange —
 a projecting ridge or collar that provides support. A flange is present on the tips of the ovipositor lobes (papillae anales) of some female moths, likely as an adaptation for laying eggs in hard soil.
Fold —
 a term traditionally used for a longitudinal part of the posterior forewing of moths in the superfamily Noctuoidea that is bordered anteriorly by the cubital vein and its branch CuA2 and posteriorly by 1A+2A. This area lacks supporting veins and is therefore relatively weak. It is sometimes colored differently than the surrounding areas (usually paler) and contains the claviform spot and/or median dash when these markings are present.
Forewing —
 the front wing of an insect. The wing attached to the second thoracic segment (the mesothorax). Characteristics of the forewing are often important in identification.
Fringe —
 the scales, setae, or hairs that extend beyond the edge of a wing membrane.
Frons —
 the area of the face that is dorsal to (above) the antennae.
Frontal tubercle —
 a raised, sclerotized structure arising from the frons of many moth species. This structure is thought to be used to escape from underground after hatching from the pupa, and is most commonly found in species that live in arid environments. The frontal tubercle has been lost secondarily in some species that pupate in sand.
Genitalia —
 the sexual organs, including associated structures. Characters of the genitalia are often used for identification purposes. Some structures of the genitalia are visible in intact specimens, but most characters require dissection for visualization.
Hair pencils —
 long, paired, brush-like pheromone-emitting organs located at the base of the ventral abdomen in males of some moth species.
Harpe —
 a rod-shaped sclerotized structure on the mesial valve of the male genitalia of some moths, arising from the dorsal distal sacculus. The shape of the harpe-especially in relation to the saccular extension- is useful for identification in the genus Euxoa.
Hindwing —
 one of the second pair of wings that is attached to the third segment of the thorax (the metathorax).
Holarctic —
 the zoogeographic region that includes most of the northern hemisphere - Africa north of the Sahara desert, North America including the northern two-thirds of Mexico, all of Europe, and Asia south to the Himalayan Mountains. The Holarctic is divided into the Nearctic and Palearctic.
Larva —
 (plural: larvae). The immature stage between the egg and the pupa. In moths, usually referred to as a caterpillar.
Leg —
 the insect leg consists of a series of segments. Starting from most basal they are the coxa, trochanter, femur, tibia, and tarsus.
Longitudinal —
 oriented along the long axis of a structure. Opposite of transverse.
M1 —
 medial vein one, the most anterior branch of the medial vein. On the forewing of the Noctuoidea, this vein extends from the anterior end of the discal cell to the outer margin, between R5 and M2.
M2 —
 medial vein two, the second branch of the medial vein. On the forewings of the Noctuoidea, this vein extends from the posterior end of the discal cell to the outer margin, between veins M1 and M3.
M3 —
 medial vein three, the third branch of the medial vein. On the forewing of the Noctuoidea, this vein extends from the posterior end of the discal cell near the cubitus vein to the outer margin, between veins M2 and CuA1.
Marginal band —
 A dark, broad, band along the outer margin of the hindwing. This term is usually reserved for a broad marking that is much darker than the ground color, or has a sharply-defined medial margin.
Median —
 in the middle of a structure, along the midline.
Median area —
 the portion of the wing between the antemedial and postmedial lines. Technically, this area includes the median and postmedial areas, but this distinction is rarely made because these areas are usually colored similarly.
Median dash —
 a thickened, short line located medially in the lower half of the forewing.
Median line —
 a, transverse line located in the median area of the forewing, usually near the mid-wing. The median line is typically darker than the surrounding wing, single, thicker and less well-defined than the other transverse lines in the Noctuoidea.
Median vein —
 a longitudinal vein between the radius and cubitus. The portion of this vein proximal to the end of the cell of the forewing has been lost during the course of evolution in the moths included on this site, but its distal branches extend from the end of the cell to the outer margin.
Mesial —
 toward the midline. A synonym of basal, and the opposite of lateral and distal.
Multivoltine —
 refers to a species that has more than two generations per year.
Nearctic —
 a subregion of the Holarctic zoogeographic region that includes North America, the northern two-thirds of Mexico and Greenland.
Neotropical —
 the zoogeographic region that includes southern Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, and South America.
Noctuid moth —
 a common name used for most members of the families Erebidae, Euteliidae, Nolidae, and Noctuidae, but usually excluding the subfamilies Arctiinae and Lymantriinae of the Erebidae. This common name is based on the fact that these moths were arranged together in the family Noctuidae until recently. Synonymous with Owlet moth.
Nocturnal —
 active at night. Most moths are active at night and are referred to as nocturnal.
Ocellus —
 a term that refers to the presence of a central dark spot (pupil) within another spot. Usually used for the orbicular spot of noctuid moths.
Orbicular spot —
 a round or oval spot located in the middle of the discal cell of the forewing, between the antemedial and median lines. This spot is present in most noctuid moths. The outline of the spot is usually darker than the surrounding wing and its center may contain a darker spot called an ocellus.
Ostium bursae —
 the posterior external opening of the female ductus bursae which receives the male intromittent organ (aedeagus) during copulation. The ostium bursae is located at the ventral aspect of the posterior eighth abdominal segment.
Outer margin —
 the outer (lateral) edge of the wing.
Ovipositor —
 the egg-laying structure of the female. Often a cylindrical tube used to deposit eggs in specific locations.
Ovipositor lobes —
 a pair of sclerotized processes at the posterior apex of the female abdomen used to deposit eggs. These are most often conical and are often covered by short or hair-like setae, but can be modified in shape or bear additional flanges or other structures. These are the only part of the female genitalia that are visible without dissection. Also called papillae anales.
Ovoid —
 oblong, egg-shaped.
Owlet moth —
 a common name used for most members of the families Erebidae, Euteliidae, Nolidae, and Noctuidae, but usually excluding the subfamilies Arctiinae and Lymantriinae of the Erebidae. This common name is based on the fact that these moths were arranged in the family Noctuidae until recently. Synonymous with Noctuid moth.
Palaearctic —
 the zoogeographic region that is the Old World part of the Holarctic region. It includes Africa north of the Sahara desert, all of Europe, and Asia north of the Himalayan Mountains
Palp —
 a segmented structure arising from the labium or maxilla.
Palpus —
 a segmented structure arising from the labium or maxilla.
Papillae anales —
 a pair of sclerotized processes at the posterior apex of the female abdomen, used to deposit eggs. These are most often conical, and are often covered by short or hair-like setae, but can be modified in shape or bear additional flanges or other structures. These are the only part of the female genitalia that are visible without dissection. Also referred to as ovipositors or ovipositor lobes.
Patagium —
 a lobe-like structure arising from the prothorax that overlaps the base of the forewing. See tegula.
Pectinate —
 with branches or tooth-like structures. Often referring to an antenna or the tarsal claws.
Phenogram —
 a graph depicting the seasonal pattern of capture dates of a species, with the date on the x-axis and number of records on the y-axis.
Phenology —
 the life history or life cycle of an organism as it relates to development over time within a single generation or several generations over a season.
Pollex —
 a thumb-like ventral projection from the distal valve of some moths in the tribe Noctuini-notably in the genus Xestia. This structure resembles a digitus but is considered to be separately derived.
Posterior —
 the "tail" end of an organism, as opposed to the anterior or "head" end of an organism.
Posterior margin —
 the hind margin of the forewing, opposite the costal margin. Also referred to as the trailing margin.
Postmedial line —
 a thin, transverse line located lateral to the discal spot, typically on distal third of the forewing. This line is usually darker than the surrounding wing. It is often double, with a darker medial component, and is scalloped between the veins in the Noctuoidea. The portion of this line lateral to the discal spot is usually convex toward the outer margin (excurved).
Proleg —
 an abdominal leg found on Lepidoptera larvae. They are fleshy legs that occur in pairs, with rows of hooked spines at the tip called crochets.
Proximal —
 near to the body or the base of an organism, as opposed to distal.
Pupa —
 the stage between larva and adult in insects with complete or holometabolous metamorphosis. It is a non-feeding and non-mobile stage that, in moths, is often surrounded by a cocoon.
Quadrifid —
 a term that describes a specific branching pattern of the hindwing veins, in which the distal cubitus vein appears to have four branches: M2, M3, CuA1, and CuA2. This branching pattern is present in the family Erebidae and some subfamilies of the Noctuidae (which are referred to as "Quadrifid noctuids"). See trifid.
Quadripectinate —
 a comb-like structure consisting of four projections per unit. Usually refers to an antenna.
Radius vein —
 a branched vein located near the anterior margin of the wing. This vein typically has five branches, numbered R1-R5, in the Noctuoidea.
Reniform spot —
 a broad C-shaped or kidney-shaped discal spot found at the end of the discal cell in some moths. This spot is usually outlined in a dark color and filled with a lighter color.
Saccular extension —
 a distal, spine-like process of the ventral sacculus of the male genitalia, typically found in the genus Euxoa of the Noctuidae. The ends of the saccular extensions can often be observed without dissection if the scales are removed from the distal abdomen.
Sacculus —
 an expanded basal portion of the valve of the male genitalia.
Scale —
 a flattened, cuticular extension that covers the body and wings of members of the order Lepidoptera ("Lepidos" means "scale" in Greek). These scales are often overlapping and contain pigment, providing for the distinctive color patterns found on the wings.
Scape —
 the first, or most basal segment of the antenna.
Sclerotized —
 hardened. Usually referring to a section of the exoskeleton or a specific structure that is hardened as opposed to soft and membranous.
Seta —
 (plural: setae) a hair-like projection of the epidermis or living layer of the exoskeleton.
Spine —
 an outgrowth of the exoskeleton, usually thorn-like.
Spur —
 a moveable spine. Often refers to an enlarged or otherwise modified spine on the legs of some moths.
Submarginal band —
 a dark band located near the margin of the hindwing of some moths. Differs from a marginal band in that a submarginal band does not extend to the outer margin.
Subreniform spot —
 a spot located in the median area posterior to ("below") the reniform spot in a few noctuid moths. Examples are found in Papaipema and Catocala.
Subterminal —
 situated slightly proximal to the end of structure.
Subterminal area —
 the portion of the wing that is located between the postmedial and subterminal lines.
Subterminal line —
 a thin, often zigzag or patterned, transverse line situated near the distal end of the forewing between the postmedial and terminal lines. It is single, usually paler than the wing ground color, and often preceded by a dark shade or wedge-like spots in the Noctuoidea.
Tagma —
 in insects and other arthropods, a group of segments that have become fused to form a functional unit (body region). For example, an insect body is composed of three tagmata: the head, thorax, and abdomen.
Tarsus —
 the fifth and final leg segment, distal to the tibia. Often consists of several segments and ends with a pair of claws.
Tegula —
 a small, flap-like structure that overlaps the base of the forewing. This structure is colored or patterned differently from the forewings and/or thorax in some moths.
Terminal —
 referring to the end of a structure that is farthest from its base of attachment.
Terminal area —
 the portion of the wing between the subterminal line and the outer margin.
Terminal line —
 a thin, transverse line situated at the margin of the forewing, at the base of the fringe. This line is often comprised of a series of dark spots between the veins in many members of the Noctuoidea
Thorax —
 the second, or middle, tagma of an insect. An insect is composed of three tagmata: the head, thorax, and abdomen. The thorax itself is composed of three segments called the prothorax, mesothorax, and metathorax. The wings and legs of moths are attached to the thorax.
Tibia —
 the fourth segment of the insect leg. Often a large and elongate segment with some ornamentation or identifying structures.
Tiger moth —
 a common name for the species in the tribe Arctiinae of the Erebidae, many of which are boldy-patterned with bright colors.
Trailing margin —
 the posterior margin of the wing, opposite the costal margin. Also called the posterior margin.
Transverse —
 across a structure, at a right angle to the longitudinal axis.
Trifid —
 a term that describes a specific branching pattern of the hindwing veins, in which the distal cubitus vein appears to have three branches: M3, CuA1, and CuA2. This branching pattern is present in many subfamilies of the Noctuidae (which are referred to as "Trifid noctuids"). See quadrifid.
Tubercle —
 a small, usually rounded protuberance.
Tuft —
 a group or bunch of setae arising from a group of very closely associated bases.
Tussock moth —
 a common name for the species in the subfamily Lymantriinae of the Erebidae. This name refers to the hair pencils and tufts that are found on many larvae in this subfamily.
Uncus —
 a long, hook-shaped midline process of the tegumen (the dorsal distal abdominal segment) present in many male moths that is used to hold the female during mating. Its shape is sometimes useful for identification.
Univoltine —
 refers to a species that has one generation per year.
Valva —
 In males, the broad paired paddle-like organs developed from the lateral ninth abdominal segment. The valves are articulated at the base, and are used to grasp the end of the female abdomen during mating They are typically modified in shape and bear additional structures, such as the clasper, digitus, and corona. The valve structure is often important for identification and their ends are usually visible without dissection after brushing the scales from the tip of the abdomen.
Valve —
 see Valva
Ventral —
 refers to the belly, or underside of an organism. For example, a ventral view would be looking at the animal from below.
Vernal —
 referring to insect activity that takes place during the spring of the year.
Vesica —
 the membranous, terminal part of the aedeagus. The vesica is collapsed inside the aedeagus prior to mating, and is everted inside the female during copulation. It is visible only after dissection, and must be inflated in order to observe its shape.
Voltinism —
 the production of a certain number of generations by a species during a given year. For example, univoltine, bivoltine, or multivoltine are categories of voltinism. While most species are restricted in the number of generations that they produce during a year, the number of generations sometimes varies, depending on geographic location or the favorable weather of a given year.
W-mark —
 a relatively common sideways W-shaped feature of the subterminal line in many species of noctuid moths, in which the line is zig-zagged, with teeth extend to or near the outer margin on veins M3 and CuA1.
Worn —
 an old or otherwise damaged moth specimen, from which many of the scales have been lost. Worn specimens are more difficult to identify than fresh ones.

Glossary References

Forbes WTM. 1954. Lepidoptera of New York and Neighboring States. Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station. Memoir 329. 433 pp.

Gordh, G. and D. H. Headrick. 2001. A Dictionary of Entomology. CABI Publishing, New York, NY. ix+1032 pp. (2010 addition available)

Triplehorn, C. A. and N. F Johnson. 2005. Borror and Delong’s introduction to the Study of Insects, Seventh edition. Thomson Books/Cole. Belmont, CA. x+864 pp.