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Genus Melitara - Pricklypear Borer

Melitara prodenialis Moth  - Melitara subumbrella - male Alberada parabates QQQ - Melitara Melitara Caterpillar  - Melitara subumbrella Melitara junctolineella - Hodges#5972 - Melitara junctolineella Unknown Moth - Melitara Blue caterpillar - Melitara Moth, dorsal - Melitara subumbrella
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Pyraloidea (Pyralid and Crambid Snout Moths)
Family Pyralidae (Pyralid Moths)
Subfamily Phycitinae
Tribe Phycitini
No Taxon (Cactus-Feeding Group)
Genus Melitara (Pricklypear Borer)
Other Common Names
banded cactus borers (larvae of junctolineella and subumbrella)
blue cactus borers (larvae of dentata and prodenialis)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Melitara Walker, 1863
synonym Megaphycis Grote, 1882; Can. Ent. 14 (1) : 30
includes 2 species (junctolineella, subumbrella) formerly placed in genus Olycella
Olycella is a "Junior subjective synonym" of Zophodia per The British Museum's Global Lepidoptera Names Index, however, Richard Brown recently told me (MAQ) that Olycella was a synonym of Melitara.
7 species in North America listed at All-Leps: apicigrammella, dentata, doddalis, junctolineella, prodenialis, subumbrella, texana
wingspan 30-45 mm, based on 7 photos by Jim Vargo at MPG
Adult: forewing slender, light to medium gray with or without distinct AM and PM lines, and usually some amount of longitudinal streaking; hindwing more than twice as broad as forewing, either all-white or mostly white with some gray shading along outer margin; fringe white

Larva: body color ranges from banded black and white in some species, to mostly bluish and unmarked in other species
genus represented throughout most of United States and southwestern Canada: New Jersey to Florida, west to California, north to British Columbia and Alberta; individual species have smaller distributions
dry habitats near larval foodplant
adults fly from March to September in California; May to September in Alberta
Favored larval hosts are Pricklypear Cactus (Opuntia spp.), but most species will also use other genera of Cactaceae, and will often accept Portulacaceae in captivity (though they cannot bore into these).
Life Cycle
Much as in related Cactoblastis. Pale brownish eggs are glued in rigid strings that are attached to spines of the host plant. The strings of eggs mimic the spines in appearance. Larvae hatch in a group, and bore into the stem of the plant, usually at a point of attachment between joints. They are gregarious and live communally at least in early instars and until fully grown in at least some species. Pupae are in a loose cocoon which may be formed inside the host plant, but more often in debris on or below the surface of the ground near but outside of the plant. Overwintering occurs as pupae in at least some species, but probably the stage varies with the species and regional climate. Some species (especially northward) are single-brooded, others are apparently multi-brooded or perhaps not highly synchronized in brood timing.
The All-Leps list is confusing because it lists doddalis Dyar as a separate species AND as a synonym of dentata (Grote).
See Also
adults are noticeably larger than most other genera in the tribe Phycitini; see many photos in the Jim Vargo link below, and note the wingspan measurements
Internet References
7 pinned adult images of 5 species plus photos of related species by Jim Vargo (Moth Photographers Group)
20 pinned adult images of M. dentata and collection site map showing presence in British Columbia (All-Leps)
pinned adult image of M. prodenialis by John Glaser, plus distribution and dates & locations in Maryland (Larry Line, Maryland)
CONABIO live larva images of banded catus borers from Mexico
Pricklypear Ecology - Darrell Ueckert, Texas A&M University & Extension Center
presence in Alberta; list of 1 species, showing dates and locations of 10 specimens (U. of Alberta)
presence in Arizona; list of 2 species (Bruce Walsh, Moths of Southeastern Arizona)
presence in California; list of 1 species, showing dates and locations of 6 specimens (U. of California at Berkeley)
presence in Florida; list of 1 species (John Heppner, Florida State Collection of Arthropods)
presence in Utah; list of 2 species (Joel Johnson, Utah Lepidopterists Society)