Family common name: argid sawflies
Genus: Neoptilia Ashmead, 1898
Argidae are found in all non-polar regions of the world (Smith and Middlekauff 1987, Smith 1992). They are external foliage feeders with a wide range of host plants. The family exhibits some uncommon behaviors like the excretion of defensive compounds and subsocial habits (Smith 1992)
Neoptilia are about 10–12 mm in length, and in North America are generally red and black. They are recognized by coloration, small eyes, and characteristic 3-segmented antennae, which in males are distinctly forked (Smith 1971c, Smith 1992, Vikberg 2004).
There are 10 species described worldwide, all restricted to the Americas. Eight species are recorded from North America (Taeger et al. 2010).
A key to North American species of Neoptilia is included in Smith 1971c.
The family Argidae can be readily identified by the single-segmented flagellum of the antenna. The genus Neoptilia can be distinguished from other genera in the family by the lack of preapical spurs on the tibiae, the bifid tarsal claws, and a lack of vein Sc in the fore wing. Males are distinguished from related genera Arge and Atomacera by the conspicuous forked antennae (Smith 1992).
Larvae are external leaf feeders on Malvaceae. Recorded hosts include: Alcea rosea (hollyhock), Malvastrum sp. (false mallow), Malva sp. (mallow), Sphaeralcea angustifolia (copper globemallow), Bastardiopsis densiflora, Allowissadula holosericea (velvetleaf mallow), and Abutilon fruticosum (Indian mallow) (Smith 1992, Bugh 2015, BugGuide 2019).
The female oviposits along the margin of the leaf. After hatching the larvae are external feeders on the foliage of a plant, sometimes gregariously, sometimes singly (Smith 1989). Larvae are caterpillar-like, with variable coloration patterns and usually body ornamentation in the form of tubercles or setae (Smith and Middlekauff 1987). Late instar N. tora larvae are distinctively bright purple in color (Bugh 2010, BugGuide 2019) and N. malvacearum are red or orange (Smith 1992). This aposematic coloration may be an indication of defensive toxins present in the body, as in related Arge.
World: This genus ranges from as far north as the United States to as far south as Ecuador (Smith 1992).
North America: Neoptilia is widespread in Mexico and Central America. Two species are recorded in the southwestern United States; one species, N. tora, is restricted to Texas (Smith 1992).
Map data from: GBIF.org (26 June 2019) GBIF Occurrence Download Neoptilia
Details about data used for maps can be found here.