Rhodostropha cretacaria, Crete - photo © K. Bormpoudaki

Rhodostropha cretacaria, Crete - photo © K. Bormpoudaki

The Family Geometridae (Geometer Moths, Looper Moths)

The Family Geometridae

The family Geometridae (Geometer moths) is a large family of moths with around 23,000 species of moths described worldwide. Many species are economically important pests of fruit trees, forest trees, and berry crops.

These moths are small to medium in size (average wingspan 1-6 cm) with slender bodies and broad wings. In some species, females have reduced wings (brachypterous) or are wingless (apterous).

Many geometrids have slender abdomens and broad wings which are usually held flat with the hindwings visible. They appear rather butterfly-like, but in most respects, they are typical moths; the majority fly at night, are attracted to light and the antennae of the males are often feathered. They tend to blend into the background, often with intricate, wavy patterns on their wings.

The larvae lack the full complement of prolegs seen in other caterpillars, with only two or three pairs at the posterior end instead of the usual five pairs. Equipped with appendages at both ends of the body, a caterpillar clasps with its front legs and draws up the hind end, then clasps with the hind end (prolegs) and reaches out for a new front attachment. This means of locomotion creating the impression that the caterpillar measures its journey is responsible for the name “Geometridae" which ultimately derives from Greek γεωμέτρης (“geometer", “earth-measurer"). The caterpillars are also called “loopers", “spanworms", or “inchworms" after their characteristic looping gait.

Larvae are found on host plants in various vegetated habitats and usually feed externally on leaves of woody plants such as coniferous and deciduous trees, and shrubs; some species eat herbaceous plants. They pupate in loose cocoons in leaf litter or soil.

The following species are representative species of the Geometridae moths that have been photographed on the island of Crete. You can obtain more information about each species, by selecting the relative species icon. The list of Geometridae species is nondefinitive.

List of Geometridae species in Crete