Texas Lep Information

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Urania Natural History

Primarily Urania fulgens Walker, 1854

Swallowtail Moth Family Uraniidae


Urania fulgens (Walker, 1854)

Killeen, Bell County, Texas
November 9, 2005 (Pert Garraway, plus M.Ob.)

Photos - TX Records - 1939 Migration - Host Maps - U.S. Data - Similar spp. - Bibliography

Per Smith (1983b), Urania fulgens, like all uraniids, undergoes population explosions 
and massive migrations that may be unsurpassed by any other insect in the Neotropics.

In Costa Rica and Panama, the first population movements may begin in July and early August and, 
depending on the year, may be very massive indeed, continuing unabated for as long as five months.

Texas and Florida Urania fulgens County Records

Urania fulgens (Walker, 1854)

Florida County Records:
Levy, Okaloosa, and Pinellas

Urania fulgens Florida county records: Levy, Okaloosa, Pinellas
compiled 26 Oct 2011

Plus Bastrop Co. TX, per B. Freeman, 2011
Plus Balmorhea State Park, Reeves Co., 2017

Observations of the largest Urania migration
to reach the United States

In July 1939 at San Benito, Cameron Co., Texas, Jack B. Prentiss observed a migration of U. fulgens during the morning hours, in a pasture behind his home. In a personal communication he stated, "The flight was rather extensive; there were always a few in sight for the better part of 4 hours. They were all flying in a due north direction. During the height of the flight they were rather numerous; 20 to 30 could be seen at one time. Most were flying too high to be netted and all were flying fast. Those flying low were most elusive and one had but a single chance to net them. During the course of the flight I did manage to take 2 specimens; one was in extremely good condition, the other only fair. (Kendall, 1978)

US Urania Records by Year

Smith (1983a) reports "big or very big" Urania flights every 5.8 yrs in C. and northern S. America betw. 1901-1981.

TX Bee Co. Beeville June 17, 1916 1 worn female 1st U.S. Record (Leussler 1918)

TX Cameron Co. San Benito July 1939 A migration, 2 specimens, 1 extremely fresh, 1 fair

Dallas Co.
Dallas Co. 
Bexar Co. 
nr. San Antonio
April 08, 1941 
April 11, 1941 
April 06, 1941 
1 worn female
1 worn female
1 worn male
(Kendall, 1978)
(Kendall, 1978)
(Kendall, 1978)

TX Brazos Co.  College Station Dec. 27, 1955 1 worn female (Kendall, 1978)

TX Live Oak Co. George West Sept. 05, 1971  1 worn female (Kendall, 1978)

FL Okaloosa Co. Fort Walton Beach   Sept. 09, 1973 1 worn male FL panhandle (Emmel & Farkas, 1974)

TX Bexar Co.  San Antonio Date Unk.  1 male (pre-1978)

Offshore Oil Platform Sept. 11, 1998 Unpublished, but reportedly was actually U. leilus
Cameron Co.
Jim Hogg Co
Kleberg Co. 
San Benito

Nov. 01, 1998
Dec. 17, 1998
Dec. 20, 1998 

TX Hidalgo Co. Mission Nov. 07, 2003 1 photographed missing one tail

TX Cameron Co. Brownsville ca. Aug. 07, 2005

TX Cameron Co. Brownsville Aug. 15, 2005 **

TX Cameron Co. Harlingen Aug. 15, 2005  2, 1 photographed slightly worn
TX Cameron Co. Laguna Atascosa NWR Aug. 15, 2005 1-2 seen
TX Hidalgo Co. Weslaco Aug. 15, 2005 2, 1 collected
TX Kleberg Co.  Kingsville Aug. 15, 2005 1 photographed Nectaring on a hummingbird feeder!!!
TX Hidalgo Co.  Donna Aug. 16, 2005

TX Nueces Co. Robstown Sept. 26, 2005

TX Cameron Co. Laguna Atascosa NWR   Oct. 12, 2005 1 photographed missing tails
TX Bell Co.  Killeen Nov. 09, 2005 1 photographed quite fresh!

TX Hidalgo Co. nr. La Lomita, Mission Oct. 21, 2007 1 collected quite worn male

TX Hidalgo Co.Bentsen St Pk, MissionNov. 14, 20101 photographedSomewhat worn

TXBastrop Co.nr. UtleyMay 8, 20111 seen two timesFIDE Brush Freeman
FLLevy Co.Cedar KeyOct 19, 20111 photographedIn good condition, (seen by MAQ)
FLPinellas Co.South PasadenaOct 19, 20111 coll. & photoIn good condition
Hidalgo Co.

Dec. 23, 2011
1 photographed
In very good condition (seen by MAQ)

Cameron Co.
South Padre Is. Con. Ctr
Feb. 2, 2017
1 photographed
missing tails, (pix seen by MAQ)
Reeves Co.
Balmorhea State Park
Mar. 12, 2017
1 photographed
Somewhat worn. (Pic seen by MAQ)
TX Nueces Co. Flour Bluff, Corpus Ch.
Oct. 10, 2017
1 photographed

Range maps of confirmed Urania fulgens host plants: 

Omphalea oleifera and Omphalea diandra (Euphorbiaceae )

Maps from Missouri Botanical Garden's VAST database

Similar Species and breeding range

There are approximately 50 described species within Uraniidae in seven genera. (Lees & Smith, 1991). 

Urania genus is restricted to the Neotropics:

Haiti and the Dominican Republic each have a species of Omphalea and are the only place in the world where Omphalea occurs without a Uraniid. 

Map of the Caribbean

Behavioral photo:

Photo of rare mass laying of eggs on Omphalea diandra, (Euphorbiaceae)

Etymology: Urania fulgens Walker, 1854

urani, -o (G). The heavens
fulgen (L). Flash, gleam

Biography: Francis Walker (1809 - 1874) - Wikipedia


Urania papers:

Belt, T. 1874. The naturalist in Nicaragua. John Murray, London. 403 pp.

DeVries, P.J. & T.R. Dudley. 1990. Flight physiology of migrating Urania fulgens (Uraniidae): flight speeds, body-size, thermoregulation, and lipid reserves in natural free flight. Physiological Zoology 63: 235-251.

DeVries, P.J., & Dudley, R., 1990, Morphometrics, airspeed, thermoregulation, and lipid reserves of migrating Urania fulgens (Uraniidae) moths in natural free flight: Physiological Zoology, 63: 235-251.

Dudley, R. & P.J. DeVries. 1988. Flight physiology of migrating Urania fulgens (Uraniidae) moths. American Zoologist 28: 102.

Dudley, R. & P.J. DeVries. 1990. Flight physiology of migrating Urania fulgens (Uraniidae) moths: kinematics and aerodynamics of natural free flight. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 167: 145-154.

Dudley, R., R. B. Srygley, E. G. Oliveira, and P. J. DeVries. 2002. Flight speeds, lipid reserves, and predation of the migratory Neotropical moth Urania fulgens (Uraniidae). Biotropica 34: 452-458.

Emmel, T.C. & V.J. Farkas. 1974. Urania fulgens (Uranidae) captured in Florida. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society, 28: 292. (Full PDF)

Kendall, R.O. 1978. Periodic occurrence of Urania fulgens (Uraniidae) in the United States. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 32(4): 307-309. (Full PDF)

Kite, G.C, Horn, J.M, Romeo, J.T, Fellows, L.E, Lees, D.C, Scotfield, A.M and Smith, Neal G. 1990. a-Homonokirimycin and 2,5-Dihydroxymethyl1-3,4-Dihydroxy-Pyrrolidine: Alkaloidal Glycosidase Inhibitors in the Moth Urania fulgens. Phytochemistry 29(1): 103-105.

Lees, D.C. 1992. Foreleg stridulation in male Urania moths (Lepidoptera: Uraniidae).  Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 106(2): 163-170. 

Leussler, R.A. 1918. Interesting butterfly occurrences at Beeville, Texas (Lep.). Entomological News 29(4): 149. (Full Text)

Meerman, J.C. & T. Boomsma. 1997. Urania fulgens and other Lepidoptera migrations in Belize, Central America. News of the Lepidopterists' Society 39(1): 8-9.

Mota, L.M. y R. Dirzo. 1996. Urania fulgens. Pp: 334-337 en: Enrique González Soriano, Rodolfo Dirzo y Richard C. Vogt (editors). Historia Natural de los Tuxtlas. Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México, México City. 647 pp.

Odendaal, F.J., and P.R. Ehrlich. 1985. A migration of Urania fulgens (Uraniidae) in Costa Rica. Biotropica 17(1): 46-49.

Skutch, A.F. 1970. Migrations of the American moth, Urania fulgens. Entomologist 103: 192-197. 

Smith, N.G. 1972. Migrations of the day-flying moth Urania in Central and South America. Caribbean Journal of Science 12(2-Jan): 45-58.

Smith, N.G. 1982. Population irruptions and periodic migrations in the day-flying moth, Urania fulgens. Pp: 331-344. in: A.S. Rand, D.M. Windsor, and E.G. Leigh, Jr. (editors). The Ecology of a Tropical Forest Seasonal Rhythms and Long-term Changes. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C.

Smith, N.G. 1983a. Host plant toxicity and migration in the dayflying moth Urania. Florida Entomologist 66(1): 76-85. 

Smith, N.G. 1983b. Urania fulgens (Calipato Verde, Green Urania). in: Janzen, D.H. (editor) Costa Rican Natural History, University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 816 pp.

Smith, N.G.. 1990. El Por Qué de la Migración del Lepidoptero Diurno Urania fulgens (Uraniidae: Geometroidea). Pp: 415-432. in: A.S. Rand, D.M. Windsor, and E.G. Leigh, Jr. (editors). Ecología de un bosque tropical: ciclos estacionales y cambios a largo plazo. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Republic of Panama, Balboa.

Smith, N. G. 1992. Reproductive Behaviour and Ecology of Urania (Lepidoptera:Uraniidae) Moths and of their Larval Food Plants, Omphalea spp. (Euphorbiaceae). Pp: 576-593 in: Quintero A., Diomedes and Aiello, Annette (editors), Insects of Panama and Mesoamerica - Selected Studies. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

van der Heyden, T. 2006. Eine Massenwanderung von Urania fulgens WALKER, 1854 in Costa Rica, Zentralamerika (Lepidoptera: Uraniidae). - Nachrichten entomologischer Verein Apollo, N. F. 27(1/2): 55-57.  (Notes on a mass migration of Urania fulgens Walker, 1854 in Costa Rica, Central America (Lepidoptera: Uraniidae).)

Walker, F. 1854. Catalogue of Lepidoptera Heterocera. List of the Specimens of Lepidopterous Insects in the Collection of the British Museum. 1: 1-278. (Full PDF)

Westwood, J.O. 1879. Observations on the Uraniidae, a family of Lepidopterous Insects, with a Synopsis of the Family and a Monograph of Coronidia, one of the genera of which it is composed. Transactions of the Zoological Society, 10(12): 1–35, 3 plates.

Young, A.M. 1970. Notes on a migration of Urania fulgens (Lepidoptera: Uraniidae) in Costa Rica. Journal of the New York Entomological Society 78: 60-70.

Urania Host Plant Papers:

Horn, J.M., D.C. Lees, N.G. Smith, R.J. Nash, L. E. Fellows & E. A. Bell. 1986. The Urania-Omphalea Interaction: Hostplant Secondary Chemistry. in: 6th International Symposium on Insect-Plant Relationships, Pau, France, June 30, 1986.

Kite, G.C., L.E. Fellows, G.W.J. Fleet, P.S. Liu, A.M. Scofield & N.G. Smith. 1988. a-Homonojirimycin [2,6-Dodepxy-2,6-Imono-D-Glycero-L-Gulo-Heptitol] from Omphalea diandra L.: Isolation and Glucosidase Inhibition. Tetrahedron Letters 29(49): 6483-6486.

Kite, G.C., Scofield, A.M., Lees, D.C., Hughes, M. & Smith, N. G. 1997. Alkaloidal glycosidase inhibitors and digestive glycosidase inhibition in specialist and generalist herbivores of Omphalea diandra. Journal of Chemical Ecology 23(1): 119-135.

Lees, D.C. & N.G. Smith. 1991. Foodplant Associations of the Uraniinae (Uraniidae) and their Systematic, Evolutionary, and Ecological Significance. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 45(4): 296-347. (Full PDF)

Smith, N.G. 1983a. Host plant toxicity and migration in the dayflying moth Urania. Florida Entomologist 66(1): 76-85. 

Smith, N.G. 1992. Reproductive Behaviour and Ecology of Urania (Lepidoptera:Uraniidae) Moths and of their Larval Food Plants, Omphalea spp. (Euphorbiaceae). Pp: 576-593 in: Quintero A., Diomedes and Aiello, Annette (editors), Insects of Panama and Mesoamerica - Selected Studies. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

13 March 2017  © Mike Quinn / entomike@gmail.com / Texas Entomology