Submitted to: News of the Lepidopterist's Society
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: February 11, 2004
Publication Date: April 1, 2004
Citation: Solis, M.A., Hight, S.D., Gordon, D.R. 2004. Alert: tracking the cactus moth as it flys and eats it way westward in the u.s.. News of the Lepidopterist's Society. 04/01/2004. v.46:3-4
Interpretive Summary: The cactus moth was detected in Florida as an invasive species in 1989. It has since migrated north and west where it has endangered populations of a rare cactus species. There is great concern by the Mexican government where this cactus is a food product and western U.S. national parks where it is the major component of the ecosystem. We provide information about the identity of the cactus moth to the scientific community, and they are asked to contact the first author if it collected along the Gulf coast. A identification key to the cactus-feeding larvae of southeastern U.S. is provided and photographs of the immatures and adults are provided for the cactus moth so that they can be readily identified by generalist collectors, quarantine, and scientific personnel. This information will be useful to both action agency identifiers and regulatory personnel at the state level and national park biologists.
Cactoblastis cactorum, the cactus moth, has been in the United States since 1989. Since then it has moved northward and westward in Florida. It has devastated the populations of an endemic species of Opuntia in Florida. Historically, it is the successful biological control agent against Opuntia in the various countries where it has been introduced. This note brings to the attention of lepidopterists the identity of this species and asks that they contact the author if they suspect they have collected it. We provide a corrected key to cactus-feeding larvae that occur in southeastern U.S. and photos of the immature and adult stages.