A sparkling shiny new moth

 

Another micro-moth identified. This one is a Tinted Moth or White-headed Monopis Moth (Monopis monachella, Family Tineidae). It showed up under my porch light a few nights ago. From a distance it looks like a grain of burned rice but close up it is very beautiful with a white furry head and thorax, and dark purplish wings that are decorated with iridescent blue scales, a pearly white patch, and fringes at the the upturned end of the wing.

The genus Monopsis has some very unusual feeding preferences. Monopis moth larvae feed on a variety of substances that we do not commonly associate with moth caterpillars which by and large eat leaves or other live plant parts. Instead, Monopsis larvae feed on feathers, fur, wool, dried skin and other less digestible parts of animal carcasses, owl pellets, bird droppings, and carnivore scat. In a Korean study feathers were used to bait traps to catch two species of Monopsis. A species of Monopsis has also been discovered that lives in bat caves feeding on guano and other debris.

Taxonomy
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Tineoidea (Tubeworm, Bagworm, and Clothes Moths)
Family Tineidae (Clothes Moths, Fungus Moths)
Subfamily Tineinae
Genus/species Monopis monachella

Description
The following description is a summary after After Dietz (1905), Forbes (1923), Guo-Hua et al. (2011), and Bug Guide. Wings dark reddish brown (“purple black” in Guo-Hua et al. 2011) with ashy gray-brown spots, the costa trapezoidal, pearly white, extending from mid-wing to the tip, its edges diagonal. The diagonal edge of the costa encloses a translucent or vitreous circle which is typical of all Monopis. There are a few white scales are on the rounded wing tip. The head and thorax are white, antennae dark brown. Length approximately 5 mm.

Range
In the broad sense M. monachella has a near worldwide distribution. However, recent studies suggest that M. monachella is actually a collection of many morphologically similar looking species that can be reliably told apart only by DNA.

Larval Hosts
Larvae of M. monachella are reported to feed on animal remains that contain keratin (keratophagous) such as dried skin, feathers and other remains in bird nests, fur, wool and owl pellets which are the regurgitated bits of animals containing fur and bones an owl cannot digest. Some members of the genus are chitinophagous, that is, they can eat and digest fungi, the cell walls of which contain chitin, and the chitinous exoskeletons of arthropods. The larvae live in portable silken tubes.

 

SOURCES

Bong-Kyu Byun, Sat-Byul Shin, Yang-Seop Bae, Do Sung Kim, Yong Geun Choi. (2014). First discovery of a cave-dwelling Tineid moth (Lepidoptera, Tineidae) from East Asia. Journal of Forestry Research  25(3): 647-651.

Dietz, William G. (1905). Revision of the Genera and Species of the Tineid Subfamilies Amydrinae and Tineinae inhabiting North America. Transactions of the American Entomoligical Society, 31(1): 1-95 with six plates. Description of Monopis monachella on pages 30 to 33.

Dong-June Lee, Young-Don Ju, Ulziijargal Bayarsaikhan, Bo-Sun Park, Sol-Moon Na, Jae-Won Kim, Bong-Woo Lee, Yang-Seop Bae. (2016). First report on two species of genus Monopis (Lepidoptera, Tineidae) collected by feather trap in Korea. Journal of Asia-Pacific Biodiversity 9: 215-218

Forbes, William T. M. (1923). Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, 1923, Memoir #68: Lepidoptera of New York and Neighboring States. Description of Monopis monachella on page 132.

Guo-Hua Huang, Liu-Sheng Chen, Toshiya Hirowatari, Yoshitsugu Nasu, and Ming Wang. (2011). A revision of the Monopis monachella species complex (Lepidoptera: Tineidae) from China. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 163: 1-14.

Genus Monopis at Bug Guide web site.

Monopis monachella at HOSTS web site.

Monopis monachella at NIC.FUNET.FI web site.

Monopsis monachella at Svenska fjärilar web site.

Species Monopis monachella – White-headed Monopis – Hodges#0418 at Bug Guide web site.

 

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