Agaristinae have often been treated as a full family, e.g. by Kiriakoff (1977),
though with relationships to the Noctuidae. Kiriakoff defined the group on the
presence of a more or less well developed paired vesicle (bulla abdominalis) at
the base of the abdomen (a scobinate blister dorsal and posterior to the
counter-tympanal hood?), associated with the counter-tympanal structures.
Kiriakoff suggested the Agaristidae were the apomorphic sister-group of the
plesiomorphic Noctuidae, though did not address himself to the question of the
monophyly of the Noctuidae implicit in such an arrangement.
(1984: 224) placed the agaristines as a subfamily of the Noctuidae associated
with the trifine subfamilies. He described them (p.
226) as a highly apomorphic group: counter-tympanum several times the size of
the tympanal membrane; hood very reduced/absent; adults active by day, generally
highly coloured, usually with clubbed antennae; larvae also brightly coloured,
feeding largely on Vitaceae and Onagraceae'. The preference for Vitaceae was
also noted by Sugi (1987). The presence of trifine hair pencils in the male
abdomen supports Kitching's placement.
The subfamily is primarily pantropical. As stated by Kitching, the taxa are
mainly brightly coloured and day-flying, though some, particularly the genus Sarbanissa
Walker, come to light at night.
In the hindwing vein M2 is usually obsolescent as in other trifine sub-families.
Kiriakoff made a particular study of the male genitalia, and subdivided the
Indo-Australian genera on the basis of genitalic features. The only genus in his
Group I, Episteme Hubner, is represented in Borneo. The rest are all from
the second group and, except for Crinocula Jordan (Subgroup 4) and Sarbanissa
(Subgroup 13), are all in Subgroup 3, having an elongated tegumen and uncus
and a distally expanded, often triangular valve.
In most genera the harpe is strong, simple, as in some Amphipyrinae and
Pantheinae. In a number a corona is present. The aedeagus is short but often
produced apically into a spur or tapering process; the ductus ejaculatorius is
inserted more or less centrally, and the aedeagus is usually expanded at that
point. The scaphium is often sclerotised dorsally, and is long in Subgroup 3.
Lateral rods are present on sternite 8 in many genera.
The female genitalia, not studied by Kiriakoff, are characterised by rather
narrow, triangular ovipositor lobes with long apodemes; the eighth segment is a
simple, sclerotised ring, again with long apodemes; the ductus bursae is very
long, extremely narrow and unsclerotised, though there may be a short basal
section that is broader and sclerotised; the bursa is small, unadorned or very
finely scobinate. The condition of the ductus and bursa may provide another
autapomorphy for the subfamily.
The larvae have all prolegs present. Secondary setae do not occur. The pattern
usually consists of irregular white reticulations on black, with the white areas
being suffused with orange or yellow in rings or patches (see Sugi, 1987).
The Sumatran Agaristinae were featured by Kobes (1965). Ten species are shared
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