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Yucca Moth - Prodoxus decipiens

Yucca Moth - Prodoxus decipiens
Nashua, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, USA
July 1, 2006
Yucca moth hanging out inside yucca blossom growing near Nashua Airport. These yucca blooms are also loaded with yucca bee*tles.

In January I found larvae of the first reported yucca moths reported in New Hampshire, which matured indoors in late March. Those were from Pelham, NH, two towns away from this location.

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


Notes on finding yucca moths
I collected some specimens for Don Chandler at this Nashua location and wrote up these instruction for other would-be yucca moth collectors.

First you need some blooming yuccas :-) and a container to put moths in.

I could have whaled away on the flower stalks with my sweep net, but out of respect for the plants and the yucca bee*tles I searched by peeking inside individual blossom bells till I saw moths. Count on checking about 50 blossoms for every moth find.

Fortunately, peeking inside is not enough to scare them off. Even if they do get nervous, they are more apt to run around on the inside of the bell rather than fly. This allowed me to pick the blossoms containing moths and feed them petals-together into the end of my collecting bottle, twist the blossom back and forth till they made their exit -- into the bottle.

If moths are already in the bottle when this is done, you must first scare them away from the cap where they tend to hide (sorta like a blossom), otherwise you'll have escapees as I found out.

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