AskDefine | Define noctuid

Dictionary Definition

noctuid n : usually dull-colored medium-sized nocturnal moth; the usually smooth-bodied larvae are destructive agricultural pests [syn: noctuid moth, owlet moth]

Extensive Definition

The Noctuidae or Owlet moths are a family of robustly-built moths that includes more than 35,000 known species, possibly 100,000 species altogether, in more than 4,200 genera. They constitute the largest family in the Lepidoptera.
Their distribution is worldwide with about 1,450 species found in Europe
Most have drab forewings, although some have brightly coloured hindwings. There are usually few differences between the sexes. The overwhelming majority of noctuids fly at night and are almost invariably strongly attracted to light. Many are also attracted to sugar and nectar-rich flowers.
Some of the family are preyed upon by bats. However, these members have developed an evasive system whereby upon hearing the high pitched note which is emitted by the bat to locate its prey, a tiny organ in the ear sends muscles in the wings into spasm - causing the moth to dart around erratically. This random movement has the effect of evading the incoming bat.
Several species have larvae (caterpillars) that live in the soil and are agricultural or horticultural pests. These are the "cutworms" that eat the bases of young brassicas and lettuces. They form hard, shiny pupae. Most noctuid larvae feed at night, resting in the soil or in a crevice in its food plant during the day.
The Noctuidae are remarkable for containing an extraordinary number of species whose caterpillars are able to feed on certain poisonous plants without harm. These foodplants - namely Solanaceae (e.g. Nicotiana) and Fabaceae (e.g. Sophora) - contain chemicals that would kill most insects trying to feed on them.


Division into subfamilies, and the number of subfamilies is unsatisfactory and varies somewhat in various taxonomical systems. Several moth genera are not yet robustly assigned to subfamilies:
However recent molecular studies have shown that the family Noctuidae is paraphyletic. The subfamily Plusiinae should be raised to family status. The Noctuidae sensu stricto should be confined to trifines. The quadrifid noctuid subfamilies are paraphyletic (or perhaps polyphyletic) and should be grouped in a clade with the Arctiidae and Lymantriidae. The terms trifid and quadrifid refer to the number of veins from the lower part of the hindwing midcell.

Notable species

Acronictinae Amphipyrinae Catocalinae Cuculliinae Hadeninae Heliothinae Ipimorphinae Noctuinae Plusiinae
Additional examples:


noctuid in Bulgarian: Нощни пеперуди
noctuid in Danish: Ugler (sommerfugle)
noctuid in German: Eulenfalter
noctuid in Spanish: Noctuidae
noctuid in French: Noctuidae
noctuid in Italian: Noctuidae
noctuid in Hebrew: תנשמיתיים
noctuid in Lithuanian: Pelėdgalviai
noctuid in Dutch: Noctuidae
noctuid in Japanese: ヤガ
noctuid in Norwegian: Nattfly
noctuid in Polish: Sówkowate
noctuid in Portuguese: Noctuidae
noctuid in Russian: Совки
noctuid in Finnish: Yökköset
noctuid in Swedish: Nattflyn
noctuid in Ukrainian: Совки
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