Cutworms, Armyworms, Whistling Moths, Underwings.
The NOCTUIDAE include many pests of garden and crop plants. Some, the "Cutworms", have Caterpillars that live in the soil near the soil surface, and they bite off young plants just above ground level at night, pulling them into their burrow. Others climb the plant and pull leaves down into the soil. Some are called "Armyworms" because the Caterpillars eat their way across a paddock like an army on the march. Many species of this family are semi-loopers. They lack ventral prolegs and loop their bodies when moving. In this way they resemble the Caterpillars of the family GEOMETRIDAE.
Most species of NOCTUIDAE pupate in the soil, although a few pupate in a sparse cocoon under a leaf of their foodplant.
The adults mainly fly at night, feeding on nectar from flowers. Their nocturnal habits gave the family its latin name. Some of the adults have metallic-looking markings on their wings. but most have dull coloured wings.
Note that although the Checklist of Australian Lepidoptera includes the subfamilies NOLINAE , CHLOEPHORINAE , and SARROTHRIPINAE in NOCTUIDAE , following the more recent book A Guide to Australian Moths here we list them in NOLIDAE.
There are approximately 1,000 named Australian species in NOCTUIDAE. Here the illustrated species are listed in their subfamilies.
Frequently Asked Questions about Caterpillars
(updated 4 August 2012)