Open Access
How to translate text using browser tools
1 December 2015 Species Richness of Noctuid Moths (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) from the State of Guanajuato, Mexico
Manuel Darío Salas-Araiza, Rafael Guzmán-Mendoza, Oscar Alejandro Martínez- Jaime, Marcos Antonio González-Márquez, Alejandra López Figueroa
Author Affiliations +

The greatest diversity of lepidopterans is found in the Neotropical region. Within this order, the family Noctuidae are striking for their dominance and great species richness with 35,000 species worldwide, of which 8,539 have been recorded in the Neotropics (Quimbayo et al. 2010). Dodd et al. (2011) found that noctuid species could reach up to 40% of the lepidopteran species richness, in both forests and fragmented landscapes, many with generalist feeding habits (Sánchez- Ramos et al. 1999). Gómez y Gómez & Beutelsparcher (1999) indicated that Mexico has a wide diversity of lepidopterans, but the biological and taxonomic information is not enough. Of the studies from Mexico, MacGregor & Gutiérrez (1983), Pacheco-Mendívil (1985), and Beutelspacher & Balcázar-Lara (1999) reported 22, 20, and 19 species, respectively, of noctuid pests, which are widely distributed on many types of Mexican crops. Spodoptera exigua Hübner and Helicoverpa zea Boddie are among the most common. More research on the taxonomy of Lepidoptera is necessary, particularly on the Noctuidae (Llorente- Bousquets et al. 2014) because of the family's great species richness and the negative impact by some species on the agriculture of Mexico.

Guanajuato, located between the arid north of the country and the luxuriant south, is one of the most agriculturally productive states of Mexico. Likewise, Guanajuato is the most transformed by intensive agricultural activity, which makes it important to know what species are currently present in the region in order to identify potential crop pests. Faunistic lists and scientific collections are useful for recording faunal change, for understanding how disturbing events have caused changes, and for predicting future trends. In addition, the study of lepidopterans can be used as a bioindicator of environmental change and for prioritizing sites for the conservation of natural areas (Kir'Yanov & Balcázar-Lara 2007). Due to the lack of information on species richness of Noctuidae moths, the aim of this research was to record the species of noctuids from agricultural sites from the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, and to provide information about their distribution and their biogeographic affinities.

Collections of specimens were made at the experimental agricultural field of the Universidad de Guanajuato, Campus Irapuato-Salamanca (20°44»»36»N, 101°19»»35»W; 1,739 m asl)in Irapuato, Guanajuato, and at the experimental field of Universidad de La Salle Bajío (21°3›15»N, 101°36›42»W; 1,812 m) in León, Guanajuato. A 15 W blacklight trap 50 cm long (Cantelo 1990) was placed once a year in the middle of the fields during 2012. In addition, specimens from the entomological collection “Leopoldo Tinoco Corona” of Universidad de Guanajuato were examined. In total, 680 individual moths were subjected to morphological analysis of the front and hind wings. The species taxonomic determination was performed according to keys of Chapman & Lienk (1981), Covell (1984), Kitching (1987), Mitchell & Zim (1994), Lafontaine & Poole (2010), and MEM (2012). All specimens identified at species level are in the “Leopoldo Tinoco Corona” collection. Biogeographic affinities of species that are consequence of taxa natural history and ecological adaptations (Rzedowski 1993; Halffter et al. 2008) were determined using distribution data from the systematic literature and online sources of MEM (2012), Nearctica (2013), and GBIF (2014). We also used the concept of Megamexico as a complete biogeographic region according to Rzedowski (1993).

During field work, 51 genera and 77 species of noctuids grouped into 10 subfamilies were identified. The subfamily with the most genera was Catocalinae (n = 10), followed by Amphipyrinae (n = 11), Hadeninae (n = 6), Acontiinae (n = 5), Noctuinae (n = 5), Plusiinae (n = 5), Cucullinae (n = 4), Heliothinae (n = 2), Acronictinae (n = 2), and Rivulinae (n = 1). The subfamily with the most species was Catocalinae (n = 19), followed by Amphipyrinae (n = 15), Hadeninae (n = 12), Noctuinae (n = 6), Plusiinae (n = 5), Heliothinae (n = 4), Cucullinae (n = 4), Acronictinae (n = 2), and Rivulinae (n = 1). The greatest numbers of species were found in the genera Melipotis (n = 9), Tarache (n = 5), Spodoptera (n = 4), Lacinipolia (n = 4), Leucania (n = 4) and Heliothis (n = 3) (Table 1). Of the total species identified, 36.3% had a Megamexico I affinity, 33.7% Nearctic affinity, 16.8% were cosmopolitan, 11.6% corresponded to Megamexico III, and 1 species had a Megamexico II distribution. Due to Guanajuato's geographic position at the southern limit of the Chihuahuan Desert, these results suggest that the noctuid fauna of Guanajuato has greater affinity with the southern USA and northern Mexico than central or southern Mexico. The presence of species within Megamexico II and III might be a consequence of mountain ranges such as the Sierra Madre Oriental, the Sierra Madre Occidental, and the Transmexican Volcanic Belt, which are regions of relatively great endemism. Guanajuato can be considered to be a transition province between the Nearctic and the Neotropical biogeographic regions (Escalante et al. 2005). Also, 16.8% of the 13 cosmopolitan species were found in the Transmexican Volcanic Belt; their presence is probably due to the intense agricultural activity and transport of products into and out of the region for international trade. Our results present 30 new species records for Mexico together with data about their biogeographic affinity based on distribution data reported in the literature.

Four well-known noctuid pest species were recorded: Peridroma saucia Hübner, Heliocoverpa zea Boddie, Mythimna unipuncta (Haworth), and Spodoptera frugiperda Smith & Abbot (Table 1). In addition, other potentially important economic species were recorded, which included Chrysodeixis includens Walker, whose larvae were seen feeding on tomato under greenhouse conditions in Irapuato; Anticarsia gemmatalis Hübner, pest of many crops, whose larval stage was observed feeding on alfalfa; Autographa ampla Walker, a defoliator of various species of trees and shrubs in Canada and the USA (Chapman & Lienk 1981), which has been observed feeding on lettuce in Guanajuato (personal observation of the first author M. D. S. A.); and Striacosta albicosta (Smith), which was reported to feed on transgenic Bt maize crop in the northern USA (Tooker & Fleischer 2010). In contrast, Dargida procinctus Grote was caught on “alpistillo” or reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea L.; Poales: Poaceae), an important weed in Guanajuato; this interaction could be interesting for a study of this noctuid's potential as a biological control of reed canarygrass.

Table 1.

List of noctuid species collected from Guanajuato, with (*) indicating new records for Mexico, and distribution according to MEM (2012) and Nearctica (2013).




Although the numbers of individuals of the various taxa caught during sampling were not recorded systematically, the most abundant species were clearly S. frugiperda, H. zea, and M. unipuncta, likely because of the great expanse of sorghum and maize crops grown in the region. Similar to the findings of Sei-Woong & Jeog-Seop (2013), the pattern of species richness of Noctuidae was one in which the majority of species were represented only by a few individuals. Nevertheless, more precise determinations of abundance patterns and total species richness of noctuids in Guanajuato are required, and more rigorous statistical and systematic field sampling is needed.

We thank DAIP from University of Guanajuato, and Luis Lara-Alvarez and Robert Jones, University of Queretaro, for vetting the English text.


The Noctuidae are a family with many species worldwide, but in Mexico, there is little information about their species richness despite noctuids being very important pests in agriculture. With data obtained from fieldwork and specimens from the Entomological Collection of Universidad de Guanajuato, a list of species found in Guanajuato was made, taking into account distribution and biogeographic affinity data. The results showed 77 species, of which 36.3% had a distribution of Megamexico I affinity, 33.7% had Nearctic affinity, and 16.8% were cosmopolitan, whereas the rest of the species had distributions that corresponded to Megamexico II and III. The high percentage of northern species suggests that the biogeographic affinity of the noctuids from Guanajuato is close to the southern USA and northern Mexico. This research reports 30 new species records for Mexico, and 1 species may be a potential agent for the biological control of reed canarygrass, a major weed species.

Key Words: richness; biogeography; biological control; reed canarygrass; Megamexico


Noctuidae es una familia de palomillas con muchas especies reconocidas alrededor del mundo, pero en México hay poca información disponible sobre su riqueza a pesar de que los noctuidos se consideran plagas en la agricultura. Con datos obtenidos en campo y de la revisión de ejemplares de la Colección Entomológica de la Universidad de Guanajuato, se elaboró un listado de especies tomando en cuenta la distribución y la afinidad biogeográfica. Se encontraron 77 especies, 36.3% de afinidad Megamexico I, 33.7% de afinidad Neártica y 16.8% cosmopolitas, el resto de las especies tienen distribución que corresponde a Megamexico II y III. El alto porcentaje de especies norteñas sugiere que Guanajuato es más parecido al sur de Estados Unidos y Norte de México. En esta investigación se reportan 30 nuevos registros de especies para México, una con el potencial de usarse como control biológico de malezas en cultivos.

Palabras Clave: riqueza; biogeografía; control biológico; malezas en cultivos; Megamexico

References Cited


BCR Beutelspacher , MA Balcázar-Lara . 1999. Lepidoptera, pp. 83–98 In LAC Deloya , DJE Valenzuela [eds.], Catálogo de Insectos y Ácaros Plaga de los Cultivos Agrícolas de México. Sociedad Mexicana de Entomología. Publicaciones especiales No. 1. Google Scholar


WW Cantelo . 1990. Camparative efficacy of a blacklight trap and a Robinson trap in trapping moths. Southwestern Entomologist 15: 159–162. Google Scholar


PJ Chapman , SE Lienk . 1981. Flight periods of adults of cutworms, armyworms, loopers and others (family Noctuidae) injurious to vegetable and field crops. Agricultural Bulletin 14. New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA. Google Scholar


CV Covell Jr . 1984. A Field Guide to the Moths of Eastern North America. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Google Scholar


LE Dodd , MJ Lacki , LK Rieske . 2011. Habitat associations of Lepidoptera in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 84: 271–284. Google Scholar


T Escalante , G Rodríguez , JJ Morrone . 2005. Las provincias biogeográficas del Componente Mexicano de Montaña desde la perspectiva de los mamíferos continentales. Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad 76: 199–205. Google Scholar


GBIF. 2014. The Global Biodiversity Information Facility: GBIF Backbone Taxonomy, 2013-07-01, (last accessed 28 Oct 2014). Google Scholar


y Gómez B Gómez , C Beutelspacher . 1999. La familia Geometridae (Lepidoptera: Heterocera) en Rancho Nuevo, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, México. Folia Entomologica Mexicana 105: 9–23. Google Scholar


G Halffter , J Llorente-Bousquets , JJ Morrone . 2008. La perspectiva biogeográfica histórica, pp. 67–86 In J. Sarukhán [ed.], Capital natural de México, vol. I: Conocimiento actual de la biodiversidad. Conabio, Tlalpan, Mexico. Google Scholar


AV Kir'Yanov , MA Balcázar-Lara . 2007. Papilionidae and Pieridae butterflies (Lepidoptera, Papilionoidea) of state of Guanajuato, Mexico. Acta Zoológica Mexicana (Nueva Serie) 23: 1–9. Google Scholar


IJ Kitching . 1987. Spectacles and silver Ys: a synthesis of the systematics, cladistics and biology of the Plusiinae (Lepidoptera:Noctuidae). Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History). Entomology 54: 75–261. Google Scholar


JD Lafontaine , RW Poole . 2010. Review of the New World genera of the Acontinae (Noctuidae). ZooKeys 39: 137–160. Google Scholar


J Llorente-Bousquets , I Vargas-Fernández , A Luis-Martínez , M Trujano-Ortega , BC Hernández-Mejía , AD Warren . 2014. Biodiversidad de Lepidoptera en México. Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad 85: 353–371. Google Scholar


R MacGregor , O Gutiérrez . 1983. Guía de insectos nocivos para la agricultura en México. Alhambra Mexicana, Mexico. Google Scholar


MEM 2012. Mississippi Entomological Museum at Mississippi State University, (last accessed 10 Dec 2012). Google Scholar


RT Mitchell , HS Zim . 1994. Mariposas y palomillas. Trillas, Mexico. Google Scholar


Nearctica. 2013. The Natural History of North America, (last accessed 6 Jan 2013). Google Scholar


F Pacheco-Mendívil . 1985. Plagas de los cultivos agrícolas en Sonora y Baja California. Libro Técnico No. 1. SARH, INIA, CIANO, CAEVY. Cd. Obregón, Sonora, Mexico. Google Scholar


N Quimbayo , F Serna , TS Olivares , AO Angulo . 2010. Nóctuidos (Lepidoptera) en cultivos de flores colombianas. Revista Colombiana de Entomología 36: 38–46. Google Scholar


J Rzedowski . 1993. Diversity and origins of the phanerogamic flora of Mexico, pp. 129–144 In TP Ramamoorthy , R Bye , A Lot , J Fa [eds.], Biological Diversity of Mexico: Origins and Distribution. Oxford University Press, New York, New York, USA. Google Scholar


G Sánchez-Ramos , R Dirzo , MA Balcazar-Lara . 1999. Especificidad y herbivoría de Lepidoptera sobre especies pioneras y tolerantes del bosque mesofilo de la Reserva de la Biosfera El Cielo, Tamaulipas, México. Acta Zoológica Mexicana (Nueva Serie) 78: 103–118. Google Scholar


C Sei-Woong , A Jeong-Seop . 2013. What we know and do not know about moth diversity from seven-year-monitoring in Mt. Jirisan National Park, South Korea. Journal of the Asia-Pacific Entomologist 16: 401–409. Google Scholar


JF Tooker , SJ Fleischer . 2010. First report of western bean cutworm (Striacosta albicosta) in Pennsylvania. Crop Management, doi: 10.1094/CM-2010-0616- 01-RS. Google Scholar
Manuel Darío Salas-Araiza, Rafael Guzmán-Mendoza, Oscar Alejandro Martínez- Jaime, Marcos Antonio González-Márquez, and Alejandra López Figueroa "Species Richness of Noctuid Moths (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) from the State of Guanajuato, Mexico," Florida Entomologist 98(4), 1262-1265, (1 December 2015).
Published: 1 December 2015
Back to Top