Noctuidae

Grey Dagger Acronicta psi

Grey Dagger Acronicta psi

Noctuidae is from Latin, noctua, meanining “night owl”. The Noctuid moths are the largest family of macro-moths in the British Isles and has over 400 species. Globally there are about 21,000 species which are widespread across many continents. There are 14 main British subfamilies, including the Rustics, Underwings, Darts, Quakers, Snouts and many more. These owlet moths belong to the superfamily Noctuoidea, but the family Noctuidae contains some of the worlds largest moths, and the smallest, with wingspans ranging from 0.8cm to 30.5cm.

Bright-line Brown-eye Lacanobia oleracea

Bright-line Brown-eye Lacanobia oleracea

Owlet Moths are mainly medium sized, stout-bodied macro-moths, which are predominantly brown or greyish, some with distinct  kidney or oval shapes on their forewings which are useful for identifying similar species. Some have quite bright underwings (actually called Underwings) whilst others, like the Snouts,  maybe confused with Geometers such is their shape and pose when resting. But most Noctuid moths rest with their wings held closed and close to the body in a triangular, tent-like fashion.

Broad-barred White Hecatera bicolorata

Broad-barred White Hecatera bicolorata

Night fliers, fast and powerful, drinking nectar from flowers, sap or fruit to keep themselves fuelled up. They are very much attracted to light, and it is most likely one of these that fly through the window at night or buzz around your head when out after dark.  Others though, like the Silver Y, maybe seen sipping nectar late in the evening, or even earlier on a hot summer’s day. The caterpillars are typically bald and fat-bodied, and feed at night. Most feed on the stems, leaves and roots of broadleaved herabceous plants, and  some on the leaves of trees and shrubs. Some called ‘cutworms’ feed on grasses, and can be serious pests to cereal crops severing roots and stems clean through.

Copper Underwing Amphipyra pyramidea

Copper Underwing Amphipyra pyramidea

Dark Arches (Apamea monoglypha)

Dark Arches Apamea monoglypha

Oak Nycteoline Nycteola revayana

Oak Nycteoline Nycteola revayana


All photographs taken in 2011, rear garden, Staffordshire.. © Pete Hillman 2011.

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8 thoughts on “Noctuidae

  1. The name Noctuidae remined me of a question I’ve been meaning to ask. I once read that most moths (I assume in the U.S. – don’t know about elsewhere) are noctural. If this is the case in the U.K. too, how are you able to ge so many good shots of months duringthe day?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your excellent comment, David 🙂 Yes, most moths are nocturnal, but you would be surprised how many of them fly during the day, or that come out early evening to feed. Many are disturbed from their resting spots during the day also. Most of mine are discovered at night which are attracted to my shed light and moth trap. The next morning I photograph them and then release them.

      Liked by 1 person

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