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small white moth - Prodoxus decipiens

small white moth - Prodoxus decipiens
Pelham, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, USA
Size: 8mm head-to-wingtip
Two of these small white moths apparently expupated in my bathroom, which is loaded with fungi and rotting, fungus-bearing wood (at least till it warms up and I can evict the live beetles to the unheated shop). They could possibly have come out of some dried New Hampshire yucca stalks or a section of sotol stalk from New Mexico -- or one of my sweaters!!

Images of this individual: tag all
small white moth - Prodoxus decipiens small white moth - Prodoxus decipiens Yucca stalk grubs - Prodoxus decipiens Yucca stalk grubs - Prodoxus decipiens Yucca stalk grubs - Prodoxus decipiens Yucca pupa - Prodoxus decipiens Yucca cocoon - Prodoxus decipiens small white moth - Prodoxus decipiens small white moth - Prodoxus decipiens small white moth - Prodoxus decipiens small white moth - Prodoxus decipiens small white moth - Prodoxus decipiens

Prodoxus decipiens
Spotted your yucca moth on the Mississippi moths image site. The moth in your picture is actually a bogus yucca moth, Prodoxus decipiens, that also hangs out in yucca flowers, but is not involved in pollination. The larva feeds in the flower stalk, and you will find lots of round emergence holes in old stalks.

I'd be interested in knowing the site where you took the photograph; maintaining a database of verified records of all members of the yucca moth family, and especially given your geographic location this could be an important addition.

(Followup message)

Yes, all individuals on your page are Prodoxus decipiens, incl. the first-ever good picture I have seen of the pupa. BTW, you will find this species called P. quinquepunctellus in older literature; a few years back, we showed that P. decipiens, which long was synonymized with quinquepunctellus, is a distinct species. The only species in the east is decipiens. If you want to shoot the colorful pollinator larvae, you will find them feeding on the developing seeds. Break open ripening pods 2-3 wks after flowering and you will find them in there; prominent exitholes in the pods are evidence that feeding has been completed and the larvae have exited the fruit. They diapause in a fairly dense cocoon in the ground, pupate in the spring, to emerge in time for the flowering.

These are the first records from NH known to me, but not unexpected as the species occurs in Ontario at this point. As part of the work we have done in the lab, I have assembled a GIS-compatible database of site records for all North American prodoxids, which I plan to put in the public realm for others to mine. If you have any objection to the records being included, please let me know.

Olle P.

Dr. Olle Pellmyr
Dept of Biological Sciences
University of Idaho
Moscow, ID 83844-3051

Now it all makes sense,
with Dr. Pellmyr's comments. It just didn't seem right that Yucca moths should be found in the stem.


Wonderful series of photos!
But I have a question. If yucca moths oviposit in the flowers, and the larvae develop in the fruit, shouldn't they also emerge from the fruit? How did they get into the stalk, if they are indeed T. yuccasella?
Then the yucca: was it in someone's garden, and yucca or sotol (Yucca sp. or Dasylirion sp?).

I plead ignorance.
I don't know my yucca genera although the thin leaves had smooth margins unlike the only sotol I'm acquainted with. They had obviously been planted in a row along a low garden terrace and appeared similar to if not the same as other yuccas I've seen in New Hampshire.

I'm even more ignorant of the exact natural history of the moth. All I know is that the grubs/pupae were in the dried stalks and produced these moths that were IDed as T. yuccasella. (True, on this page I wondered about what material the moths came from, but I resolved that question as you might see in other comments on linked pages.) I have since collected adults of the same species from yuccas growing in Nashua.

How does the expupate moth get out of the dried stalk?
I think I have the answer: It doesn't.

When I cleared the dried yucca stalks off my bathroom shelf I noticed another pupa lying on the shelf, as well as some pupa-like objects that turned out to be shed pupal skins or exuvia. I think the pupae emerge from the stalk, perhaps dropping to the ground, and then they expupate. But now the question merely changes to "How does the pupa make its way out of the stalk?"

In my shots of these moth pupae you will notice a large pointed forehead that I think is the cutting tool by which the pupa first opens its coccoon, then carves a tunnel out of the stalk. These pupae are very energetic on emergence, but then become so still that I assumed they were dead. In fact, I think they are still for one last formational stage, their tissues reorganizing for their final emergence as an adult.

The pupa with its fairly horny exterior is more well-equipped to make the exit than the imago, which would have no cutting instruments and would wreck its fragile wings, antennae and legs by gyrating energetically like the pupa to propel itself toward open air. I'm not a moth person, so all this is discovery for me.

Okay, I'm adding some more images.
Don Chandler informs me this will be a New Hamshire state record.

Thank you Eric and Bob
The Tree of Life site lists quite a few species within the Tegeticula yuccasella complex, which they have branching from Heteroneura>>Incurvarioidea>>Prodoxidae>>Tegeticula yuccasella complex. That's about as far as I care to go with it :-)

I wonder now if the small grubs I found inside brown sacs in the yucca stalks in my bathroom were not wasp as I figued, but the internally feeding grubs of the Yucca Moth:

How about changing the locality info? the Data tab doesn't show it as a New Hampshire endemic.

New Hampshire endemic
These yucca stalks were not brought in from out-of-state. They grow just fine here in the land of eternal snow -- New Hampshire. At least some Yucca Moths in this complex even live in Canada.

Now that we have learned that they are Yucca Moths, I'll change the town name to reflect where the yuccas grew.

NH species??
Jim: If there were from the NH yuccas, I wouldn't mind getting some specimens for the collection.


How do you want them?
They won't be mounted, but how *else* would you like them? Dried in a vial I can do. Maybe a little tissue to keep them from rattling around? Please tell me.

btw, no luck find Corti*ceus yet :-(

Eric is Correct, One of the Yucca Moths......
.... but the species is 0198 - Tegeticula yuccasella. This is a species complex of ~ 13 species, very similar in appearance, and with different yucca plant hosts per species. See Tree of Life Web cladogram and tiny species photos. I asked Jim Vargo to compare this photo against his specimens and he tells me that the antennae and legs match his T. yuccasella. Great photo, Jim.

Yucca moth?
Sure does remind me of a Pronuba sp. (at least I think that is the appropriate genus). Nice images, Jim.

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