Thysania agrippina (Cramer, 1776)
Family Noctuidae - Subfamily Catocalinae
|"After eight years preparation Maria Sibylla Merian, then fifty-two, and her youngest daughter traveled three month by merchant ship to Suriname. For two years she not only went around the settlements and plantations, but the two women explored the interior and survived many perils. Maria Sibylla Merian documented the metamorphosis of the tropical butterflies and insects. From this experience she created the base of her major work "Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium" [Metamorphosis of the Insects of Surinam] which she published after the voyage in Amsterdam, 1705. The book became her most famous work, it contains many figures of tropical plants and animals, which were still completely unknown in Europe."|
Two biographical sketches of MSM:
Her artwork mostly commands four figures:
Kimball (1965) reported the following for Thysania agrippina in Florida:
|"There is a fine specimen of this in the University of Tampa collection, taken in Tampa by Prof. C. T. Reed, of the biology Department. Unfortunately the body has been eaten by Dermestes. It is, of course, a stray."|
Charles P. Kimball (1897-1982) began collecting Lepidoptera, mostly moths, in Florida in 1946. After 1951, Kimball spent most of each year on Siesta Key, near Sarasota, FL (Heppner 2007). Kimball's study of Lepidoptera led to the 1965 publication of an annotated catalog for the state. His former base near Sarasota is approximately 40 miles south of Tampa.
According to Horace R. Burke (Professor Emeritus, Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University, pers. comm., 2004), Clyde Theodore Reed (1891-1985) was an incessant traveler, collector and scholar. He either attended, taught or administered at universities in Kansas, Maryland, New York, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Istanbul (Turkey!), Texas, (Fort Worth, Corpus Christi, & Kingsville), Tennessee, Arkansas, and Florida from 1910 to 1944! In 1944, Reed joined the University of Tampa as the head of the Department of Biology. In addition to insects, Reed collected bird skins, eggs and molluscs. He was interested in marine biology, botany, poetry, and religion as well as entomology. (Burke cited (Cattell 1949) as his primary reference on Reed.)
Reed obviously had many wide-ranging pursuits, but apparently the proper care, labeling and publishing of his records didn't get the attention they should have. Neither Kimball nor Heppner (2007) report a date for this specimen which strongly indicates that Reed's specimen lacked a label.
An old, unlabeled specimen of a primarily South American moth with no Caribbean population reported from Tampa raises questions about the validity of the record. Unfortunately, Reed's collection and any notebooks he had at the University of Miami were lost to fire. There may be more details on Reed's specimen among Kimball's papers at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity in Gainesville, FL. Heppner (2007)
Florida has the highest percentage of exotic species of any state except Hawaii. Frank & McCoy (1992) found 271 exotic insect species reported in the literature for the first time between 1971 and 1991. By 1994, Frank & McCoy (1995) estimated that the number of exotic insect species present in Florida at about 1,000. They report that "some of them [came] as fly-ins, but many as contaminants of cargoes." It's possible that Reed's specimen arrived in Florida by plane or ship cargo.
World's Largest Insect?
What actually is the world's largest insect depends on how you measure it. Here are drawings and measurements of candidates for the longest, widest, greatest area and heaviest insects of the world as compiled by John R. Meyer, Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University.
See also, Kons (2000) discussion of the largest Lepidopteran wing span.
Thysania agrippina (Cramer, 1776)
thysan, -o, =us (G). A fringe
agri, (G). Wild, fierce
pinna, (L). A wing
If you have any additional information on this insect, please contact:
Mike Quinn, Austin Texas
Beebe, M.B., & C.W. Beebe. 1910. Our Search for a Wilderness: An Account of Two Ornithological Expeditions. Henry Holt and Co., New York. 408 pp.
Beutelspacher, C.R.. 1994. A Guide to Mexico's Butterflies and Moths. Minutiae Mexicana, México, D.F. 96 pp.
Borror, D.J. 1960. Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms. National Press Books, Palo Alto. v + 134 pp.
Cattell, J. (editor). 1949. American Men of Science (eighth edition). The Science Press, Lancaster, PA.
Cramer, P. & C. Stoll. 1776. De uitlandsche Kapellen voorkomende in de drie Waereld-Deelen Asia, Africa en America. S. J. Baalde & Barthelemy Wild, Amsterdam and Utrecht. Vol. 1: 1-132, pls. I-XCVI.
Duke, J.A. 1983. 1998. Handbook of Energy Crops: Hevea brasiliensis (Willd.) Muell.-Arg. unpublished.
Frank, J.H.& E.D. McCoy. 1992. The immigration of insects to Florida, with a tabulation of records published since 1970. Florida Entomologist 75: 1-28.
Frank, J.H.& E.D. McCoy. 1994. Commercial importation into Florida of invertebrate animals as biological control agents. Florida Entomologist 77: 1-20.
Heppner, J.B. 2007. Lepidoptera of Florida. Part 1. Introduction and Catalog. Arthropods of Florida and Neighboring Land Areas, Vol. 17. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry, Gainesville.
Hodges, R.W., T. Dominick, D.R. Davis, D.C. Ferguson, J.G. Franclemont, E.G. Munroe, J.A. Powell editors. 1983. Check list of the Lepidoptera of America North of Mexico (Including Greenland). E.W. Classey Limited and the Wedge Entomological Research Foundation, London. xxiv + 284 pp.
Hoffmann, C.C. 1918. Las mariposas entre los antiguos Mexicanos. Cosmos
Janzen, D. H. and Hallwachs, W. 1999. Philosophy, navigation and use of a dynamic database ("ACG Caterpillars SRNP") for an inventory of the macrocaterpillar fauna, and its food plants and parasitoids, of the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste (ACG), northwestern Costa Rica (http://janzen.sas.upenn.edu).
Jordan, K. 1924. A new species of Thysania allied to T. agrippina. Transactions of the Entomological Society of London, 1924: xvi-xvii.
Kimball, C.P. 1965. The Lepidoptera of Florida; an annotated checklist. Arthropods of Florida and Neighboring Land Areas Vol. 1. Florida Department of Agriculture, Division of Plant Industry. v + 363 pp.
Merian, M.S. 1705. Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium, ofte verandering der Surinaamsche insecten. Gerard Valck, Amsterdam. 60 pp. 60 plates.
Poole, R.W. 1989. Lepidopterorum Catalogus. Fascicle 124. NOCTUIDAE. CRC Press, Danvers, MA. 1314 pp in 3 parts.
Robinson, G.S., Ackery, P.R., Kitching, I.J., Beccaloni, G.W. & Hernández, L.M. 2002. Hostplants of the moth and butterfly caterpillars of America north of Mexico. 824 pp. [Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute, Volume 69.]
Schaus, W. 1889. Descriptions of new species of Mexican Heterocera. Entom. Amer. 5: 87-90.
Schaus, W. 1892. Descriptions of new species of Lepidoptera Heterocera from Brazil, Mexico and Peru. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1892: 272-291.
Schreiter, R. 1936. Erebus odora L., Thysania zenobia Cram. y Thysania agrippina Cram. (Lepidopt.-Noctuidae). Boletín del Museo de Historia Natural de la Universidad Nacional de Tucumán. 2:29-32, pi. I—II.
Stearn, W.T. 1982. Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) as a Botanical Artist. Taxon, 31(3): 529-534.
Tietz, H.M. 1972. An index to the described life histories, early stages and hosts of the Macrolepidoptera of the continental United States and Canada. Allyn Museum of Entomology, Sarasota.
Walker, T.J., ed. 2001. University of Florida Book of Insect Records, 2001. http://ufbir.ifas.ufl.edu/.
Zahl, P.A. 1959. Giant insects of the Amazon. National Geographic 115(5): 648, 662-663.