Illustrated Guide to the Immature Lepidoptera on Oaks in Missouri

Document Type



caterpillars, identification, Lepidoptera, Missouri, natural history, pupae, Quercus


Oak trees (Quercus spp.) dominate many forests in North America, and their diverse herbivore fauna is a major component of ecological biodiversity. Yet, identification guides for oak-feeding Lepidoptera in the eastern United States usually lack detailed larval morphological characteristics and pupal descriptions. This book describes the immature stages of common species of butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) whose larvae are found on 10 species of oak (Quercus) in the eastern Missouri Ozarks (USA). Data were collected mainly as part of the Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project (MOFEP), a longterm study of the effects of harvesting regimes on forest structure and function. The morphology, biology, known hosts, distribution, and ecology of the caterpillars and pupae we encountered in Missouri are included in this guide. A total of 107 species of Lepidoptera in 20 families are treated. Family chapters take a global perspective, summarizing egg, larval, and pupal characters; reviewing recent classifications; and listing the major pest species. Morphological characters that differ from related species are emphasized. Mature larvae for all species and early and mid-instars for some taxa are illustrated. Photographs of key morphological characteristics of all 10 species of Gelechiidae and a few other families are included. Known species distributions in Missouri, based mostly on adult records, are shown via county maps. Confirmed feeding records on oaks in Missouri are provided, along with a list of species that likely feed on oaks in Missouri but that have not yet been encountered. Finally, an extensive bibliography of relevant worldwide literature is included. This illustrated guide will be useful to foresters, conservationists, naturalists, ecologists, and both amateur and professional entomologists. Many of the included species are widely distributed throughout the eastern United States and feed on a variety of trees in addition to oak, making this book useful to those studying caterpillars outside of Missouri. This information also serves as a baseline for future studies of the Missouri oak ecosystem, which is likely to change due to invasion by exotic species and local effects of global warming.

Publication Date

June 2019

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