|scientific name Melitara dentata |
Dry grasslands, prairies, badlands and deserts with Prickly-pear Cactus (Opuntia sp.).
Adults have been caught in Alberta from late July to early October.
A fairly large (3.2 - 5.0 cm wingspan) micro moth with a stocky, grayish body. The long and fairly narrow forewings are gray, often with more whitish costal margin. The forewings have a row of dark spots near the tip with one spot between each pair of veins; a distinct, but often weak, double zigzag cross-band approximately 1/4 wing length from the tip; a distinct black discal spot; and a weak, dark angled cross-band near the wing base. The hind wings are broad and white, often with grayish margins. Both sexes have clearly pectinate antennae, and long, porrect palps (more pointed in females). The similar Melitara subumbrella is often more brownish gray and have no cross-bands on the forewings.
Eggs are laid in an "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, less so during the later instars. The mature larvae are generally dark blue. There is one brood flying annually and the development is probably one year in Alberta. Adults have often been collected at light, and larvae can be found in their feeding galleries in Prickly-pear Cactus where the infected pods often are dry and brown in contrast to the fresh, green uninfected pods. Though the moths certainly damage their host, they are not considered to be a treat to native cactus species.
Alberta is the north western limit of the range of Melitara dentata, the species is not of any concern.
There are no host records from Alberta. Elsewhere the moth is reported to feed on various Prickly-pear Cacti (genus Opuntia) including the two Alberta species Fragile Prickly-pear Cactus (Opuntia fragilis) and Prairie Prickly-pear Cactus (Opuntia polyacantha).
Widespread in western North America from Alberta to southern Arizona and central Texas. In Alberta the species is distributed throughout the southern grasslands and the south eastern parkland from Edgerton and Tolman Bridge in the north to Onefour in the south.
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