Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ailanthus Webworm Moth

Also known as Atteva punctella   This picture was sent in by new Master Gardener trainee Mary Crooks.  Alex identified it, and linked to this University of Arkansas Fact Sheet:
The colorful adult Ailanthus webworm moths are pollinators, often seen visiting flowers of many different species during daytime. They mate at dawn and lay eggs at dusk, primarily on fibrous substrates, such as the larval webbing. Larvae of various ages feed gregariously on leaves, flowers, seeds, and even bark.
As the common name indicates, the larval host plant is the invasive species Ailanthus altissima, or Tree of Heaven.

Go Moth!

The fact sheet also uses two terms multivoltine and diapause that are useful in understanding insect life cycles.  A multivoltine species has multiple broods in one season - that is the female of the species lays eggs multiple times during its adult life span.  That's an important characteristic in disease transmission from mosquitoes.  Some mosquito species are univoltine - they get a blood meal, lay eggs once, and die.  We in the vector disease management field don't worry too much about these gals, since any pathogen they pick up in the process of getting a blood meal, won't be passed on.  The multivoltine mosquito species, however, drink, lay eggs, and then go seek another host - up to 4 times in some cases.  That's how a disease, like the West Nile virus, gets transmitted.

Diapause is an insect version of hibernation, going into a slowed down metabolic state to wait out adverse environmental conditions.

The Ailanthus moth is described in the fact sheet as a multivoltine species that apparently does not diapause, concluding:
It is unlikely that it overwinters in the northern part of its range. Rather, it migrates north across the United States to southern Canada each year.

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