Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory


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Family HESPERIIDAE Latreille, 1809



Hesperiidae are characterised by adults of both sexes having six functional legs, antenna with a bent apical club, a broad head with the bases of the antennae widely separated, and in both wings all the veins arising separately from the discal cell. There are 126 species recorded from Australia and its remote oceanic islands, in five subfamilies: Coeliadinae (7), Euschemoninae (1), Pyrginae (8), Trapezitinae (71) and Hesperiinae (39) (Braby 2010).

Warren et al. (2008, 2009) proposed a revised subfamily- and tribal-level classification for the genera of the Hesperiidae according to an extensive combined phylogenetic analysis of molecular and morphological data. In that classification, most traditional subfamilies were recognised, but the monobasic genus Euschemon Doubleday was awarded subfamily status, while the status of several other higher taxa was revised. The Coeliadinae were shown to comprise the sister lineage to all other hesperiids, with the following systematic relationships: Coeliadinae + (Euschemoninae + (Eudaminae + (Pyrginae + (Heteropterinae + (Trapezitinae + (Hesperiinae)))))). All subfamilies except the Eudaminae and Heteropterinae occur in Australia. For the Trapezitinae there is currently no consensus on genus-level relationships, and some genera as currently circumscribed may not be monophyletic (Warren et al. 2008).

In the Coeliadinae, no genera are endemic to Australia, but Allora Waterhouse & Lyell is shared only with New Guinea and Maluku. Both Hasora Moore and Badamia Moore are widespread in the Oriental Region. The monotypic Euschemoninae is endemic to Australia, containing the single genus Euschemon. In the Pyrginae, the genus Exometoeca Meyrick is endemic and Netrocoryne C. & R. Felder is shared with New Guinea. Both Tagiades Hübner and Chaetocneme C. Felder occur widely in the Oriental Region. In the Trapezitinae, which is restricted to Australia and New Guinea, most of the Australian genera are endemic. Three genera are shared with New Guinea: Neohesperilla Waterhouse & Lyell, Toxidia Mabille and Rachelia Hemming; and two genera occur only in New Guinea: Felicena Waterhouse and Hewitsoniella Shepard. Most species of the genus Croitana Waterhouse are restricted to the arid and semi-arid zone. In the Hesperiinae, no genera are endemic to Australia, but Mimene Joicey & Talbot is shared only with New Guinea and nearby islands, and Suniana Evans is shared with New Guinea and Maluku. The remaining genera are widespread in the Oriental Region. Hesperiid species are found throughout Australia, with most in the moist northern regions of the eastern coast.

Most Hesperiidae are small brown or black butterflies with cream spots or orange markings. A few species have metallic green markings. No Australian species have tails. Many species are similar in appearance and their identification requires close attention to small details of colour pattern and, for many species, the male sex brand of specialised scent-dispersing scales. The genitalia of both sexes provide good diagnostic characters at generic and species levels.

Adult flight is rapid and jerky which has led to the common name of 'skippers' for the group. Adult Pyrginae rest with their wings flat, whereas Hesperiinae and Trapezitinae often rest with the fore wings up, almost vertical, and hind wings nearly horizontal. Larvae of Pyrginae and Coeliadinae are sometimes brightly coloured, but those of Hesperiinae and Trapezitinae are usually uniformly green, occasionally purple or brown. Larvae of Australian Coeliadinae and Pyrginae (except Tagiades) feed on dicotyledonous plants, and those of Hesperiinae and Trapezitinae feed on monocots. Among Trapezitinae, larvae of Trapezites Hübner feed on Lomandra and several related genera (Xanthorrhoeaceae). Larvae of Mesodina Meyrick feed on Patersonia (Iridaceae) and a suite of other trapezitine genera feed on Poaceae, another suite on Cyperaceae.

Larvae of all the Australian groups construct silken shelters, usually by tying leaves or parts of leaves together. Most live head upwards in the shelter, but members of a small group live head downwards.

Braby (2010) excluded the genera Oriens and Pseudoborbo.


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
06-Sep-2017 PAPILIONOIDEA 13-Feb-2018 MODIFIED
20-Nov-2015 HESPERIIDAE 19-Nov-2015 REVIEWED Lyn Randall
05-Mar-2013 05-Mar-2013 MODIFIED
05-Mar-2013 07-Aug-2012 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)