Hepialus humuli L Ghost swift moth

This widely distributed, polyphagous pest is associated mainly with permanent grassland and lawns but can also damage a wide range of agricultural and horticultural crops planted in recently broken-up grassland or pasture. The soil-inhabiting larvae attack the subterranean parts of plants; particularly severe damage is caused in the second year of larval development.


Adults are active at dusk, mainly in June and July. The females lay many hundreds of eggs, which they drop at random whilst skimming over grassland. The eggs hatch in approximately 3 weeks. The larvae feed from late summer or early autumn onwards, constructing silken tunnels in the soil, into which they often retreat when disturbed. Larval development is slow and is usually not completed until after the second winter. Individuals then pupate in silken cocoons. Adults emerge about 3 weeks later, the pupae first working their way to the soil surface.


Adult female 50-70 mm wingspan; forewings parchment-like, yellowish-ochreous, marked with orange (Plate 10c); hindwings greyish-brown. Adult male 45-50 mm wingspan; wings silvery-white. Egg 0.7 x 0.5 mm; white when laid but soon turning black. Larva up to 50 mm long; body whitish, robust and relatively opaque; pinacula dark brown and prominent; head and prothoracic plate reddish-brown (Plate lOd) (cf. Hepialus lupulinus, below).

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