plume moths

(Subfamily Pterophorinae)

plume moth (Subfamily Pterophorinae)
Photo by Alfredo Colon

Pterophorinae is a large subfamily of plume moths. They are found all over the world, but they are most common in tropical and subtropical regions. There are three subfamilies of plume moths (Family Pterophoridae). Only Pterophorinae occurs in the United States outside of California and Florida.

There are 83 Pterophorinae genera in 6 tribes worldwide. The exact number of species worldwide is unknown, but the number is over 1,000, and new species continue to be discovered. There are 146 species in 25 genera in 3 tribes in North America north of Mexico, and at least 18 species in 13 genera in 2 tribes in Minnesota.


Pterophorinae moths are mostly herbivores, and their larvae feed on a wide variety of plants, including grasses, herbaceous plants, and shrubs. Some species are pests of agricultural crops, including the artichoke plume moth (Platyptilia carduidactyla) and the geranium plume moth (Platyptilia pica).

Adults are short-lived, usually surviving for only a few weeks. They rest with their wings held out at right angles to the body, the hindwings concealed beneath the forewings, in what has been called the “airplane posture.” They are active at night and will come to lights. During the day they can be found resting on walls or on vegetation.


Pterophorinae range in size from the minute plume moth (Pterophorus pentadactyla), with a wingspan of just 316 (5 mm), to the giant plume moth (Megalorhipida leucopterus), with a wingspan of 1316 (30 mm). The body is slender and brownish, gray, or white.

The antennae are long.

The legs are long, slender, and sometimes spiny. On the hind leg, the fourth segment (tibia) is two to three times longer than the third segment (femur).

The forewings are deeply notched at the tip, dividing the wing into two lobes. The hindwings are deeply divided into three lobes. The lobes of the hindwing are often fringed with long, sometimes curved filaments, giving the lobe a plume-like appearance resembling a bird’s feather.


Distribution Map



24, 30, 82.



Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)  


Pterophoroidea (plume moths and allies)  


Pterophoridae (plume moths)  

Subordinate Taxa


Tribe Marasmarchini

Tribe Oidaematophorini

Tribe Oxyptilini

Tribe Platyptiliini

Tribe Pterophorini

Tribe Tetraschalini






Common Names


This subfamily has no common name. The common name of the Family Pterophoridae is plume moths, and it is applied here for convenience.















On insects and arachnids, the third, largest, most robust segment of the leg, coming immediately before the tibia. On humans, the thigh bone.



The fourth segment of an insect leg, after the femur and before the tarsus (foot). The fifth segment of a spider leg or palp.






Visitor Photos

Share your photo of this insect.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach one or more photos and, if you like, a caption.

Alfredo Colon

    plume moth (Subfamily Pterophorinae)   plume moth (Subfamily Pterophorinae)  








Visitor Videos

Share your video of this insect.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach a video, a YouTube link, or a cloud storage link.


Other Videos



Visitor Sightings

Report a sighting of this insect.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Be sure to include a location.
  Alfredo Colon

Location: Woodbury, MN

plume moth (Subfamily Pterophorinae)







Created: 7/16/2023

Last Updated:

About Us | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | © All rights reserved.