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Photo#364005
See what was hiding under the cochineal's blanket. Apparently, that would be Laetilia. - Laetilia dilatifasciella

See what was hiding under the cochineal's blanket. Apparently, that would be Laetilia. - Laetilia dilatifasciella
Fullerton Arboretum, Fullerton, Orange County, California, USA
January 11, 2010
Size: flexible; ~1/2" as shown
Seems no other critters were under the blanket. Best guess is that this larva cleaned out the scale insects. I suspect the proud parents are wasps or flies. Do you know for sure? Will you hazard a guess?

Moved

Laetilia in California
Powell and Opler mention that L. coccidivora is an eastern species, the western counterpart being L. dilatifasciella which was previously treated as a synonym of coccidivora. I think then that perhaps this image is best treated as L. dilatifasciella (and if there is any doubt, Powell and Opler go on to mention that these do feed on cocineals on Opuntia in Southern California).

 
Sounds appropriate. Thanks, Chris.
Still no blacklighting; will advise.

Moved
Moved from Unnamed.

My moth friend said he could not find a tribe listed for this species in his resources, so I'm moving it here for now. If anyone knows the tribe breakdown and tells us where it belongs I'll move it.

 
Thanks; I thought I'd found it, but erred.
.

Moved
Moved from ID Request.

Caterpillar.
Perhaps some sort of leaf-roller who just desided to venture into the webbing, those sclerotized plates behind the head are common in several families. Hymenopteran larvae (at least parasitic ones) don't really have heavy sclerotization if any. What's the host plant?

http://bugguide.net/node/view/74736

 
Host is cactus - prickly pear.
Thanks for your comment. There is nothing else growing in the immediate vicinity, i.e. at least a 15' radius. Hope this helps narrow things down.

Because of a noxious substance they emit, cochineal scale insects are supposed to be immune to all but three predators: a fly, a wasp, and a ladybird beetle. I question the accuracy of this statement, as I have seen argentine ants plunder the scale insects. More here:

 
Cats in cochineal
Ron: We will have to take prisoners and see what they produce. If you tell me where they are hanging out I'll do it.

 
Oh, Peter, you are so rapacious.
And I say that in the nicest way. While I continue to take no prisoners, I will inform. They're in the cactus garden, in the almost rearmost and definitely highest spot. A sign nearby mentions cochineal. Maybe we can cruise up there together? Or call and I'll be a bit more specific.

 
Oh that makes sense.
You took all those other pictures too. I should have realized it was on the Prickly Pear :) Interesting! I wonder if this isn't Laetilia coccidivora Its a pyralid commonly associated with scale insects. There has been some research done with these guys because apparently they do eat the scales, aren't deterred by the scale's chemical defenses and in turn use the chemical defenses for themselves by ingesting the scale. I found this on a website, dunno how reliable it is, but its a start.

"According to Thomas Eisner et al. (Science 30 May 1980: Vol. 208 no. 4447, pp. 1039-1042), carminic acid, the dye from cochineal insects, is a potent feeding deterrent to ants. This may have evolved as a chemical weapon against predation. The carnivorous caterpillar of a pyralid moth (Laetilia coccidivora) is undeterred by the dye and feeds on cochineal insects. In fact, the moth has the remarkable habit of utilizing the ingested carminic acid for its own defensive purposes."

http://waynesword.palomar.edu/ecoph3.htm

I'll look into it more when its not so close to bedtime :) I'll search the UC Davis databases tomorrow and see what I can find.

 
Thanks for any and all help you can provide.
I hadn't heard about the moth before, but the story about a predator adapting the acid for its own purposes is something I've seen often and wrt different insects. BTW, here's an ant who hasn't read the literature:

 
Well I think it is L. coccidivora.
There isn't a whole lot of info on it from the search I did, but an article written in 1980 has several black and white photographs of adults and larvae. Unfortunately I couldn't get them to print or save so I could post it here, but it looks like this guy here!

 
Thanks, I'm good to go with that.
I can't imagine a whole lot of different moths trying to claim this particular space. So, Natalie, do you know someone influential who can get me a new species page for this one? I can't even find one for genus.

 
I'll do it for you :)
I'll check with a moth guy I know to see what tribe its in and make a page for it. If any other editors disagree they'll let us know.

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