FAMILY HELIOTHINAE
View Image Gallery of Subfamily Heliothinae

The Heliothinae are a relatively small subfamily found predominantly in semiarid subtropical habitats. They decrease in diversity in the humid tropics and into temperate latitudes.

The group includes a number of serious crop pests and has thus been studied extensively, major works being by Hardwick (1965, 1970) and most recently by Matthews (1988). Matthews has received the taxonomy and biology of the whole subfamily and produced a scheme of generic relationships.

Hardwick and Matthews found that the most reliable characters defining the subfamily were in the larvae: spiny skin and a transverse arrangement of L1 and L2 setae on the prothorax. Features of the adults are not so satisfactory but there are characters of the male genitalia that are more or less exclusive to the group such as the elongate, strap-like valve with a simple corona in conjunction with an aedeagus vesica that is often spiralled and tending to have isolated or small clusters of cornuti (Hardwick, 1970). Matthews noted the presence of sclerotised  rods on each side of sternum 8 in the male Heliothinae but not in the sister-group, the Stiriinae. These rods are rare in other trifine groups but do not occur in some Acronictinae and Amphipyrinae (see Introduction).

The facies of the species illustrated is typical of more heavily patterned members of the group. The trifine scent pencil is present in some heliothine genera.

In the female genitalia the appendix bursae is prominent, sometimes also spiralled. There are usually two to four typically trifine signa in the bursa.

The Heliothinae and the Stiriinae are almost exclusively flower and seed feeders (Matthews, 1988), though this habit does occur also in some Cucullinae and Hadeninae.

There are few species recorded from the Indonesian Archipelago. Apart from the two species of Helicoverpa discussed below, these are: the taxon tertia Roepke (Sumatra, Java, Bali, Sulawesi), sister to the Australian rubrescens Walker, a taxon pair that represents the sister-group to Helicoverpa (Matthews, 1988); a few Heliocheilus Grote species in the Lesser Sundas, possibly an extension of the large Australian fauna in this genus; and the Australian (Queensland) Adisura purgata Warren, recorded also from Java and Sumatra. Thus, apart from the Helicoverpa species, the Indonesian heliothine fauna can be viewed as an extension northwards of that of semiarid Australia.

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