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Utetheisa Hubner

Type species: ornatrix Linnaeus, North America.

Synonyms: Deiopeia Curtis (type species pulchella Linnaeus); Pitasila Moore syn. n. (type species leucospilota Moore, Andaman Is.); Atasca Swinhoe syn. n. (type species pellex Linnaeus, Australasian tropics).

Typical members of this genus have wings with white ground colour and a forewing pattern of alternating rows of red patches and black dots. The antennae are bipectinate, weakly to moderately in males, but more reduced, often biserrate in females.

Features of the male genitalia shared with Argina have been discussed under that genus, also of the basal abdominal sternite.

Features of the female genitalia may be used to define the genus: very long, slender, apically bulbous paired glands dorsally on the ovipositor lobes; a strongly bilobed posterior margin to the seventh sternite; a pair of small sclerites set one on each side anteriorly of the seventh segment in the membrane between tergite and sternite; two signa opposed at two thirds within the bursa, set slightly obliquely to longitudinal, more sparsely scobinate than signa of Argina and Nyctemera; the bursa is basally sclerotised with further spining set irregularly on the sclerotisation; ‘haloes’ of lighter sclerotisation round the setae of the ovipositor lobes (pulchelloides Hampson and lotrix Cramer examined).

Most of these female features are seen also in the Nyctemera-like species that are associated with the genera Atasca Swinhoe and Pitasila Moore: most have a bilobed seventh sternite, lateral accessory sclerites, haloes round setae on the ovipositor lobes (abraxoides Walker), oblique, opposed, sparsely scobinate signa. Features of the male genitalia are also as in Argina and Utetheisa. Therefore this group is placed here with Utetheisa. Some taxa e.g. variolosa Felder (Nicobars) still show rather Utetheisa-like banding on the forewing. Others, such as the Bornean abraxoides Walker discussed below and selecta Walker (Philippines to Solomons), have patterns that converge on Nyctemera. This may well be a case of mimicry, as some Sulawesi and Moluccan taxa (e.g. vandenberghi Nieuwenhuis and macklotti Vollenhoven) have patterns reminiscent of danaine Nymphalidae. The group accords with Utetheisa and differs from Nyctemera in having hindwing veins Rs and M1 connate rather than sharing a common stalk.

The Pitasila and Atasca species hereby transferred to Utetheisa are: U. varians Walker comb. n. (India); U. leucospilota Moore comb. n. (Andamans); U. variolosa Felder comb. n. (Nicobars); U. brylancik Bryk comb. n. (Taiwan); U. fractifascia Wileman comb. n. (Taiwan); U. abraxoides Walker comb. n. (Borneo); U. sangira Swinhoe comb. n. (Sangihe); U. selecta Walker comb. n.; U. vandenberghi Nieuwenhuis comb. n.; U. macklotti Vollenhoven comb. n.; U. specularis Walker comb. n. (Sulawesi, Moluccas); U. oroya Swinhoe comb. n. (Sula Is., Moluccas, New Guinea); U. guttulosa Walker comb. n. (Sulawesi); U. latifascia Hopffer comb. n. (Sulawesi); U. okinawensis Inoue comb. n. (Okinawa I.); U. pellex Linnaeus comb. n.; U. aegrotum Swinhoe comb. n. (Queensland); U. timorensis Roepke comb. n. (Timor). Nyctemera angalensis Matsumura is a synonym of U. selecta similis Swinhoe syn. n. (Palau Is.).

The larvae are usually yellow or orange-brown with extensive black markings and only weak development of secondary setae. Diagnosis for four Pacific species, including the first two discussed below, can be found in Robinson & Robinson (1974).

Host-plants of American species such as U. bella Linnaeus, and U. ornatrix Linnaeus (Tietze, 1972), and the Old World U. lotrix Cramer are predominantly, but not exclusively, from Leguminosae. But a small group of related taxa such as U. pulchella Linnaeus, U. pulchelloides Hampson and Pacific relatives feed primarily on Boraginaceae such as Messerschmidia, Heliotropium, Myosotis, Bothriospermum, Echium, and Trichodesma (Pinhey, 1975; Robinson, 1975; McFarland, 1979; Miyata, 1983). The only record for the Pitasila group is for U. selecta Walker, a specimen from Palau in the Bishop Museum labelled ‘on Messerschmidia’.

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