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one of the most primitive families of moths. The wingspan is usually 2–15 cm; however, in the female puriri moth (Hepialus virescens) of New Zealand it may reach 24 cm. The Hepialidae characteristically have identical venation of the anterior and posterior wings. The female produces as many as 30,000 eggs. The caterpillars usually live in soil and sometimes in the stems of herbaceous plants or in the trunks and roots of trees.
There are approximately 400 species, distributed on all continents and especially numerous in the tropics. There are endemic genera of Hepialidae in Central Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and New Guinea. The USSR has approximately 20 species, the most common being Hepialus humuli, which sometimes damages hops and vegetable crops. Large species of the genus Phassus are found in the Caucasus and in the southern Primor’e; some of these may damage grapevines.