Aglossa cuprina

Aglossa cuprina
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Pyralidae
Tribe: Pyralini
Genus: Aglossa
Species: A. cuprina
Binomial name
Aglossa cuprina
(Zeller, 1872)
  • Pyralis cuprina Zeller, 1872

The similar scavenger[1] species Aglossa cuprina, formerly misidentified as Aglossa pinguinalis,[2][3] is most commonly known as the "grease moth". It belongs to the lepidopteran family, Pyralidae, (the snout moths).[4] The grease moth is closely related to the genus Pyralis,[5] and as a result, is usually associated with the meal moth, Pyralis farinalis.

For the past 150 years, Aglossa cuprina has been best known for ingesting the grease produced by the bacteria that feed on decaying matter, an activity that earned it the common name of "grease moth".[6]


A. cuprina was named by the German entomologist Philipp Christoph Zeller in 1872.[7] The specific epithet of A. pinguinalis, its other binomial name, is derived from the Latin "pinguinalis" (greasy).[8]


The egg A. cuprina is of a rounded oval shape, off-white. During the larval stage, A. cuprina has a brownish head and greyish body. The A. cuprina larvae also have black mandibles and a black peritreme (part of the integument of an insect which surrounds the spiracles). They can be distinguished from the A. cuprealis larvae by setal differences. The pupae are reddish-brown with six curved, hooked setae.

The moth has a wingspan that averages about an inch and a half, and exhibits an overall dark, greyish-brown color. While the forewings are brownish-grey with pale yellowish markings (much like those of a tabby cat, hence the lesser-used common name), the top of the head and neck are simply pale yellow. A. cuprina is also known for its filiform antennae.[9]


A. cuprina has been found in places worldwide including Europe, Asia, Australia, North America, and South America.[10] A. cuprina is distributed throughout eastern North America and sightings have been recorded in California, Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin.[11] The moth stage is generally found in early summer between the months of May and August.

They tend to inhabit areas around or in human habitation and buildings. When found in homes, they are generally found in the kitchen and more specifically in the pantry where their choice food source is stored. They are also commonly found in areas where dried grain products are stored, for example, warehouses and areas of grain elevators that remain undisturbed.


Aglossa cuprina has similar feeding habits to those of the grains moths. The larval stages feed primarily on dried grain based products including corn meal, whole wheat flour, graham flour, granola, and dried oats.[12] The adults feed on butter, suet, and grease, and have even been found in excrement.[13] They have been known to feed on dried remains of other insects as well. The adults fly at dusk between June and July. They hide in dark corners during the day and can be found in stables, outhouses, barns, warehouses, and cellars.[14] They are also attracted to light and sugar.[15]

Forensic importance

A. cuprina is often involved in stored product entomology. Stored product entomologists often advise producers on ways to reduce the chances of insect infestation and thus remain under food defect action levels. A. cuprina is a common aspect of stored product entomology due to its caterpillars’ feeding habits. Grease moth larvae infest dried grain products and as it feeds it produces a silken substance that intertwines with the surrounding product. With substantial infestations, the larvae will spread throughout the product and with them spread their silk rendering the product unsellable. Most infestations occur in products that are stored for long periods of time in storage facilities.

In addition to stored product entomology, recently evidence suggests that A. cuprina may soon play a role in medicocriminal entomology. A. cuprina was recently found feeding on the greasy remains of a deceased individual.[16] The use of A. cuprina as an insect of significant forensic importance is still being researched.


Research on the species' life cycle has yet to be completed, but it has been shown to have a similar life cycle to that of Aglossa caprealis. A. caprealis lays an average of 60-300 eggs during a single reproductive cycle. The eggs are commonly laid on overhanging supports. The time it takes for the eggs to hatch is temperature dependent and take between 2–14 days to hatch.

Once the eggs have hatched, the larvae will remain in the larval stage for approximately 2–41 weeks before pupating. The larval stage prefers to live in dark secluded environments, and creates flexible tubular galleries where they spend the majority of their larval stage. The galleries are supported by silken fibers produced by the larvae.

Prior to pupation, the larvae leave their galleries and disperse to a suitable location. They entangle themselves with a loose, tough silken cover that they interweave with nearby material. The nearby materials provide structure to the silken covering and camouflage the moth while it undergoes metamorphosis. The duration spent in each stage of development is temperature dependent. The life cycle of A. cuprina has been recorded to range from approximately 12 months to over 2 years depending on weather and temperature conditions. The imago, adult insect, stage emerges in early summer and inhabits the northeastern and southeastern portions of the United States.[17]


  1. "The Lepidoptera of Wayne County, Ohio." Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. The Ohio State University OARDC. 10 Mar 2009.
  2. Solis & Shaffer. (1999). Contribution Towards the Study of the Pyralinae (Pyralidae): Historical Review, Morphology, and nomenclature. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society. 53. (1), 1-10.
  3. Aglossa cuprina.” Universal Biological Indexer and Organizer. 2009. The Marine Biological Laboratory. 18 Mar. 2009.
  4. Clark, Dale. “Moths of Dallas County, Texas.” 8 Sept. 2008. 18 Mar. 2009.
  5. Entomological Society of Washington, Smithsonian Institution Dept. of Entomology. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington. Vol. 10. Washington D.C.: The Entomological Society of Washington, 1909. 25 Jan. 2008. Google books. Pg. 97-217. 10 Mar. 2009.
  6. Brundage, Adrienne (March 23, 2009), Other Arthropods of Forensic Importance, Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University Forensic Entomology Lecture.
  7. “Aglossa Cuprina.” Zipcodezoo. 17 Mar. 2009. The BayScience Foundation, Inc. 20 Mar. 2009.
  8. Butler, Edward Albert. Our Household Insect: an account of the insect-pests found in dwelling-houses. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1893. 29 Jan. 2008. Harvard University Library, Cambridge, MA. Google books. 10 Mar. 2009.
  9. Carter, James David. Pest Lepidoptera of Europe: With Special Reference to the British Isles. Springer, 1984. Google books. Pg. 204. 16 Mar. 2009.
  10. Simmons, Langley. “Additions to the Wild Fauna and Flora of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: III.” Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information (Royal Gardens, Kew). Vol. 1907, No. 5. Pg. 156-187. JSTOR 4118357. 18 Mar. 2009.
  11. Solis, Anna M. “Pyraloidea and Their Known Hosts (Insecta: Lepidoptera) of Plummers Island, Maryland.” Pg.18. Bulletin of the Biological Society of Washington. 10 Mar. 2009.
  12. “Grain Moths.” Pests. 13 Mar. 2009.
  13. “The Lord’s Committee on Rabies.” The British Medical Journal. 20 Aug. 1887. PubMed Central. Pg. 424. U.S. National Institutes of Health. 18 Mar. 2009. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.1390.414
  14. “Entomology.” The American Naturalist. Vol. 18, No. 5. Pg. 534-542. May 1884. JSTOR 2450238. 18 Mar. 2009.
  15. De Prins, Willy, and Chris Steeman. “Aglossa pinguinalis.” Catalogue of the Lepidoptera of Belgium. 5 Mar. 2009. Flemish Entomological Society. 18 Mar. 2009.
  16. Brundage, Adrienne (March 23, 2009), Other Arthropods of Forensic Importance, Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University Forensic Entomology Lecture.
  17. “1421 Large Tabby Aglossa pinguinalis.” UK Moths: Your guide to the moths of great Britain and Ireland. 2009. Ian Kimber. 18 Mar. 2009.

Further reading

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