|scientific name Melitara subumbrella |
Dry grasslands, prairies, badlands and deserts with Prickly-pear Cactus (Opuntia sp.).
Adults have been caught in Alberta in May and June.
A large (3.5 - 5.2 cm wingspan) micro moth with a stocky, grayish to grayish-yellow body. The long and fairly narrow forewings are uniformly gray or brownish-gray, generally with dark lines along the veins. The forewings often have a weak discal spot, but never cross-bands or terminal spots like the similar Melitara dentata. The hind wings are broad and white, often with grayish or grayish-brown margins. Both sexes have pectinate antennae, but not as conspicuous as Melitara dentata. The females have long, porrect palps, whereas the palps in the male are shorter and upturned. The females can always be separated from Melitara dentata as they have a signum on the corpus bursae, a structure the latter species lacks. Otherwise, fight time is a good species indicator: M. subumbrella flies in late spring and early summer, whereas M. dentata flies in late summer and early fall.
Eggs are laid in a short "egg-stick" on cactus pods or fruits. The larvae bore through the surface of the host plant and live as borers in the fruit and stems, gregariously during the first instars, but more solitary during the later instars. The mature larvae are white with light purple cross-bands. Little is known about the moth's development in Alberta, but elsewhere it is reported to have one brood pr. year and a one-year development.
Alberta is the northern limit of the range of Melitara subumbrella, very little is known about the distribution and abundance in the province.
No host records from Alberta. Elsewhere the moth is reported to feed on various Prickly-pear Cacti (genus Opuntia) including the Alberta species Prairie Prickly-pear Cactus (Opuntia polyacantha).
Widespread in western North America from southern Alberta and Saskatchewan to southern Arizona and central Texas. Little is know about the species real distribution in Alberta, but specimens have been collected from the south eastern corner of the province (Medicine Hat, lower Oldman River and Lost River).
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