Noctuoidea of Western Canada


While the butterflies of Western Canada are well known and books to their identification are available, comprehensive regional guides to the moths do not exist. Here we deal with approximately 1,300 species of the superfamily Noctuoidea. The Noctuoidea include the Notodontidae (Prominents), Arctiidae (Tiger Moths), Lymantriidae (Tussock Moths), Noctuidae (Cutworm Moths), and Nolidae. Unfortunately, only a few groups of moths are popular with collectors so distributional information on most families remains rather spotty. Popular groups are the Hawk or Sphinx Moths (family Sphingidae), the Giant Silk Moths (family Saturniidae), Tiger Moths (family Arctiidae), and a group of cutworm moths called Underwing Moths (family Noctuidae: genus Catocala). Except for the Tiger Moths and Underwing Moths, the Noctuoidea remain poorly collected. New species from Western Canada are discovered at about the same rate as new species are described. We are currently aware of about 40 species of Noctuoidea from Western Canada that are undescribed and are excluded from these lists.

The higher classification of the superfamily Noctuoidea is presently under study and recent North American check lists do not reflect current thinking. We loosely follow Kitching and Rawlins, 1999 (The Noctuoidea, pp. 355-401 in Kristensen N.P. (editor). Lepidoptera: Moths and butterflies. Volume 1: Evolution, systematics and biogeography. Handbook of Zoology/Handbuch der Zoologie. Walter de Gruyter. Berlin/New York). Species are listed in alphabetical order by family, subfamily, tribe, genus, and species. The single exception to this sequence is found in the Noctuidae, which is divided into three natural groupings. Group two we call "noctuids with hairy larvae" for lack of a better term. This group comprises the subfamilies Acronictinae, Bryophylinae, Pantheinae, and Raphiinae. Groups one and three are made up of the quadrifid and trifid noctuids, respectively.

Here we provide illustrated regional lists for each province and territory. The "Additional resources" section contains reprints and colour illustrations to accompany journal articles. The "Image Library" may be useful as an identification guide.

Throughout the provincial lists and Image Library, small boxes are found beside each species name. By clicking these boxes and then clicking on the bar at the bottom of each page, enlarged images of the selected species will be produced on a new page. A maximum of 45 species should be selected at one time.

Species identifications are based on determinations in the Canadian National Collection of Insects, Ottawa, Ontario.

For more information, contact Don Lafontaine.