Melonworm Moth - Diaphania hyalinata
(Photo: Marvin Smith on 11/2/09)
Identification: Very distinctive white to translucent wings with dark brown border ... a tuft of bushy hairlike scales at the tip of the abdomen ... wingspan 2.5-3 cm (around an inch).
Range: Permanent range is Central and South America, the Caribbean, and southern Florida (and maybe South Texas). Moths disperse northward in the eastern U. S. during the summer and have been recorded in New England and the Great Lakes region.
Life cycle: Egg, five instars, pupae and adult. Under optimal conditions, Melonworm Moths can complete a full life cycle in 30 days.
Host plants: Melonworm caterpillars feed on cucurbits. Summer and winter squash are preferred. Cucumber, gerkin, cantaloupe and some pumpkins are secondary choices. Larvae feed mainly on foliage, but may feed on the surface of the fruit, or even burrow into the fruit after eating all the leaves. Crop yield losses to D. hyalinata can be significant.
Comments: The University of Florida says moths are not attracted to light traps, but the moth I photographed was under our porch light.
I found mentions of the "tail feathers" as aids in dispersing pheromones. I believe this is correct, but could not confirm from a reliable source.
(Photo: Alton N. Sparks, Jr., University of Georgia via Forestry Images)
The two white stripes on the Melonworm caterpillar are distinctive, but may be faint in early instars and are lost in the final instar.
Sources and Links:
BugGuide Species Page
University of Florida
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