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Language: English with bilingual summary in English and Maori
The family Noctuidae is one of the largest moth families in the world with around 12,000 known species. Moths belonging to this group are sometimes known as ‘owlets’ because of their nocturnal habits and their camouflage wing patterns, which often feature eye-like markings.
Most noctuids are relatively robust, medium-sized to large moths, with a strong fast flight; a number of them are well-known migrants that are able to travel large distances in the search for new breeding grounds. They feed actively from flowers of many kinds, and are known to be significant pollinators. Like most other moths, ‘owlets’ usually lay their eggs on living plants, and the caterpillars feed on the leaves, flowers or fruit or, in some species, inside the stem. Many owlet species have caterpillars that are able to utilise a wide range of plants as food, and some of these species have become serious pests of agriculture or horticulture. On the other hand, some species are restricted to specific habitats and foodplants and are very local or rare. The caterpillars and foodplants of many species are still unknown, especially in the tropics.
New Zealand has a relatively small fauna of Noctuidae, with about 160 known species, but most of these (around 139 species) are endemic to the country, occurring nowhere else. The number of exotic species established or regularly migrating here is slowly increasing. Many originate from Australia: two of these, the distinctive green-spangled Cosmodes elegans, and the crimson-spotted Proteuxoa sanguinipuncta are discussed and illustrated here. The Noctuidae, though recognised as a very important moth family, have not been especially well studied in New Zealand, and around 10% of the known species have not even been scientifically named. Many others are poorly known, and much confusion exists over the identification of these moths, which can be extremely variable in their colours and wing patterns.
This volume is the first part of a major review of the New Zealand noctuids, and treats 18 species in 4 genera; 3 species are described here as new to science. One of these new species, Proteuxoa tetronycha, is a very common moth that was previously overlooked due to confusion with the very similar Proteuxoa comma. It is now known for the first time that the true Proteuxoa comma is a local and rare species that may have declined in numbers due to environmental changes, and should probably be placed on the list of New Zealand’s threatened invertebrate species.