The leaf and stem mines of British flies and other insects

(Coleoptera, Diptera, Hymenoptera and Lepidoptera)

by Brian Pitkin, Willem Ellis, Colin Plant and Rob Edmunds

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Stenoptilia zophodactylus (Duponchel, 1840)
[Lepidoptera: Pterophoridae]

Dowdy Plume

Pterophorus zophodactylus Duponchel, 1840. Hist. nat. Lep. Fr. 11: 668, t. 314 fig. 4.
Pterophorus canalis
Walker, 1864. Cat. Lep. Het. B. M. 30: 544.
Pterophorus loewii
Zeller, 1847. Isis, Jena. 31 (1): 38.
Mimeseoptilus semicostata
Zeller, 1873
Stenoptilia zophodactylus
(Duponchel, 1840).

Leaf-miner: Initially the larva mines a basal leaf, subsequently feeding in flower buds (which turn yellow), opened flowers and foliage (UKMoths).

Full depth irregular blotch that may occupy an entire leaf. Frass in numerous, dispersed, brown grains. Some larvae remain in the mine until shortly before pupation, others leave the mine in an early stage and feed externally on the flower buds and developing fruits (Bladmineerders van Europa" target="_blank">Bladmineerders van Europa).

Mine of Stenoptilia zophodactylus on Gentiana sp.
Mine of Stenoptilia zophodactylus on Gentiana sp
Image: © Willem Ellis (Bladmineerders van Europa" target="_blank">Bladmineerders van Europa)

Larva: The larvae of moths have a head capsule and chewing mouthparts with opposable mandibles (see video of a gracillarid larva feeding), six thoracic legs and abdominal legs (see examples).

The camouflaged larvae vary from green to brownish yellow (UKMoths). The larva is also illustrated in Bladmineerders van Europastenoptilia-zophodactylus-larva/" target="_blank">Bladmineerders van Europa.

Pupa: The pupae of moths have visible head appendages, wings and legs which lie in sheaths (see examples).

The slender green or red pupa is attached to the foodplant (UKMoths).

Adult: The adult is illustrated in UKMoths (by Chris Manley) and the Encyclopedia of Life. The species is included in

Hosts in Great Britain and Ireland:

Blackstonia       UKMoths
Blackstonia perfoliata Yellow-wort   Pitkin & Plant
Centaurium erythraea Common Centaury British Wild Flowers by John Somerville et al. Pitkin & Plant
Centaurium erythraea Common Centaury British Wild Flowers by John Somerville et al. UKMoths
Gentiana       Pitkin & Plant
Gentiana       UKMoths

Hosts elsewhere:

Blackstonia       Belgian Lepidoptera
Blackstonia perfoliata Yellow-wort   Bladmineerders van Europa
Centaurium erythraea Common Centaury British Wild Flowers by John Somerville et al. Belgian Lepidoptera
Centaurium erythraea Common Centaury British Wild Flowers by John Somerville et al. Bladmineerders van Europa
Gentiana       Belgian Lepidoptera
Gentiana       Bladmineerders van Europa
Gentianella germanica Chiltern Gentian British Wild Flowers by John Somerville et al. Bladmineerders van Europa

Time of year - larvae: Two or more generations from June to October or later. It is uncertain which stage (s) overwinter (UKMoths).

Time of year - adults: The adult can be found from July to September in two or more overlapping broods. It generally flies from dusk onwards, but it can be disturbed from low herbage in the daytime. It can easily be mistaken for a faded specimen of the common Stenoptilia bipunctidactyla, so moths taken near large amounts of the foodplants should be examined closely (UKMoths).

Distribution in Great Britain and Ireland: Widely distributed in southern Britain (UKMoths) including Bedfordshire, Caernarvonshire, Cambridgeshire, East Gloucestershire, East Kent, East Suffolk, East Sussex, Glamorgan, Herefordshire, North Essex, North Somerset, Pembrokeshire, South Lancashire, South Wiltshire, West Cornwall, West Gloucestershire, West Suffolk and Worcestershire (NBN Atlas).

Usually locally restricted to sparsely vegetated habitats, such as sea-cliffs, sand hills, old sand and gravel workings and chalky or dry pastures, where its foodplants grow in quantity and the moth may be abundant (UKMoths).

Distribution elsewhere: Widespread in continental Europe including Albania, Andorra, Austria, Azores, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Corsica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Danish mainland, Finland, French mainland, Germany, Gibraltar, Greek mainland, Hungary, Italian mainland, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, North Aegean Is., Poland, Portuguese mainland, Romania, Sardinia, Sicily, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spanish mainland, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Yugoslavia (Fauna Europaea).

NBN Atlas links to known host species:

Blackstonia perfoliata, Centaurium erythraea, Gentianella germanica

British and Irish Parasitoids in Britain and elsewhere: Currently unknown.

External links: Search the internet:
Belgian Lepidoptera
Biodiversity Heritage Library
Bladmineerders van Europa
British leafminers
Encyclopedia of Life
Fauna Europaea
NBN Atlas
NHM UK Checklist
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Last updated 03-Jun-2019  Brian Pitkin Top of page