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Sculptures by Phyllis Bone

Order Lepidoptera - Butterflies, Moths (Top)

  • Two pairs of membranous wings
  • Both pairs covered in minute scales of various colours
  • 3 - 280mm wing spans
  • Mouthparts mainly suctorial, with proboscis
  • 20,000 species, 2,500 in Britain
  • World-wide
  • Habitats: associated with higher plants, especially angiosperms
  • Feed on liquids, usually nectar, the most primitive moths still eat pollen. Some drink tears, urine, and even blood
O. Lepidoptera O. Lepidoptera
Click to view Butterfly Collection

Lobocraspis griseifusa is an obligate tear drinker, thought to stimulate tear production by irritating the eye orb. Calyptra eustrigata stabs victims to form a puncture wound from which to suck blood.

Coloured scales provide the wing colours and patterns, but are easily dislodged, giving older insects a dull and worn appearance. True green is rare in adult butterflies, generally created by black and yellow scales. The green of the Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) is structural and disappears if moistened.

Caterpillars and adult butterflies provide stunning examples of mimicry, including mimicry of toxic Lepidopteran species, as well as other orders of insects, and even birds and reptiles. Eyespots are commonly found on the wings, where they deflect bird attacks away from more vital areas. The purple of the Purple Emperor moth (Apatura iris) is also distracting, appearing as flashes when the light is reflected.

The division into butterflies and moths is arbitrary, with butterflies deemed to be diurnal, brightly coloured and with clubbed, threadlike antennae. Moths are generally nocturnal, dully coloured and have feathered antennae. Exceptions to confound these rules are provided by the Burnet and Tiger moths.

There are 700 - 1000m of silk in a silk moth cocoon.

Danaus plexippus, commonly known as the Monarch, Milkweed, or Wanderer butterfly, is renowned for its migration. One generation flies down North America to overwinter in Mexico, then reproduces in spring and dies, leaving their offspring to begin the journey northwards. A number of generations complete the return to the north over the rest of the spring and summer, coinciding with the flowering of milkweed.

Order Trichoptera - Caddisflies (Top)

  • Two pairs of membranous, hair-covered wings
  • Forewings are hairier and less transparent than hind wings
  • Few cross veins on the wings
  • Wings often have a whitish, hairless spot (thyridium) near the centre
  • 1.4 - 40mm long
  • Long, conspicuous palps
  • No proboscis
  • 6,000 species, 189 in Britain
  • World-wide
  • Habitats: in vegetation throughout the day, fly at night and attracted to lights,
  • Adults generally do not feed, but may lap nectar
O. Trichoptera O. Trichoptera

Order Mecoptera - Scorpion flies, Dance flies, Hanging flies (Top)

  • Two pairs of membranous wings
  • Body length:10 - 20mm
    Wingspan: up to 30mm
  • Biting mouthparts
  • Head extends downwards into "beak"
  • Abdomen posterior upturned
  • 500 species, 30 in Europe
  • World-wide, more common in Northern Hemisphere
  • Habitat: cool, shady locations, amongst low growing herbage, and hanging beneath vegetation
  • Feed on dead animal and fruit, detected by olfaction. Prefer soft bodied arthropods, collect prey trapped on spiders' webs
O. Mecoptera O. Mecoptera

Although currently represented by only 500 species, Mecoptera made up a large part of the fauna of the Lower Permian era, and are the oldest fossil endopterygotes known.

Mecoptera are preyed on by spiders whilst on the webs collecting nuptial gifts, but seem to be able to repel the spiders by regurgitating onto the webs and themselves.

Order Siphonaptera - Fleas (Top)

  • Wingless (adaptation to ectoparasitism)
  • 1-10mm long
  • Mouthparts are suctorial and piercing
  • Hind legs are enlarged for jumping
  • Laterally flattened
  • Abdomen is heavily sclerotised
  • Combs on head and thorax are important for identification
  • Dark brown or black
  • Antennae are short, and lie in grooves
  • More than 2,000 species, 47 British
  • World-wide
  • Ectoparasitic on mammals and birds, also found in hosts' nests and bedding
  • Adults feed on blood, larvae feed on debris in host nest including adult flea faeces
  • See Parasite Biology display for further information
O. Siphonaptera O. Siphonaptera

Fleas are not host specific, despite being named after a host on which they are found. The human flea, Pulex irritans, occurs on at least 7 different mammals, and, in turn, 19 different species of flea have been found on humans.

The largest flea is Haemaropinus schefferi, found on the world's most primitive rodent Aplodontia rufa, the mountain beaver (which doesn't live on mountains and isn't a beaver). Now nicknamed the Super Flea, H.schefferi measures 9mm.

The record flea jump is 34 cm by the cat flea Ctenophalides felis.

Order Strepsiptera - Stylopids,Twisted-wing Parasites (Top)

  • Appearance of one pair of wings, females wingless
  • Females are larviform and entirely endoparasitic
  • Male forewings form small, stick-like balancers
  • Male hindwings membranous, fan-shaped and used for flight
  • Males are 1.5 to 4mm long
  • Biting mouthparts are atrophied
  • Male antennae are flabellate
  • Male eyes are "raspberry-like"
  • 560 species, 30 European
  • World-wide
  • Endoparasitic on insect hosts e.g. bugs, wasps and bees
  • Mature adults do not feed, larvae and females are endoparasitic
O. Strepsiptera

A high degree of specialisation has made it difficult to place the Order Strepsiptera phylogenetically, and it has been linked to the Hymenoptera, Diptera and Coleoptera. Most recent evidence puts forward strong arguments for its position as a sister group to the Diptera. (Whiting et al 1997, Systematic Biology 46,1-68)

Males are only active for a few hours, during which time they detect the female's pheromone using their unusual antennae, and trace her to her host. Only a small part of the female protrudes, enough to breathe, mate and lay eggs.

Order Diptera - True Flies (Top)

  • Appear to have one pair of wings
  • Membranous forewings used for flight
  • Hindwings form small stick-like halteres
  • Body length: 1 - 60mm
    Wingspan: few - 100mm
  • Suctorial mouthparts
  • No cerci on the abdomen
  • Over 100,000 species, at least 6,500 in Britain
  • World-wide
  • Mainly associated with flowers and decaying organic matter
  • Feed on vegetation and organic matter, some blood feeders and ectoparasites, some species do not feed at all as adults

Suborder Nematocera

  • Small, delicate insects
  • Slender, many segmented antennae, with no arista
  • No discal cell in the wing, open anal cell widens towards the wing margin
  • Larvae have prominent, biting jaws
O. Diptera Nematocera O. Diptera Nematocera

Suborder Brachycera

  • Stout flies
  • Antennae 3-segmented, shorter than the thorax, may have terminal arista
  • Discal cell not always present
  • Larvae have reduced jaws which can be retracted into the head
O. Diptera Brachycera O. Diptera Brachycera

Suborder Cyclorrapha

  • Stout flies
  • Antennae non-prominent, 3 segmented and pendulous, bristle from dorsal surface
  • Circular seam on head
  • Larvae are maggot-like, with no visible jaws
O. Diptera Cyclorrapha O. Diptera Cyclorrapha

What do you call a fly with no wings? A sheep ked, a Deer fly... or a walk.

Blowfly larvae are used in medicine as they eat only dying flesh, and secrete antibiotics which improve healing times.

Diptera are important as carriers of malaria, yellow fever, river-blindness and many other diseases.

The Forcipomyia midges have the fastest wingbeat of all insects, at 62760 per minute (1046 per second,) which is also the fastest muscle movement ever recorded.

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