Friday, November 13, 2009

Melonworm Moth - Diaphania hyalinata

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.

Melonworm caterpillar
(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:
Forestry Images
BugGuide Species Page
University of Florida



John B. said...

Nice find! I haven't seen a moth like that.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a beautiful moth. I really like those tail feathers. The iridesense is pretty too.

Deb said...

Distinctive, indeed! And beautiful.

Caron said...

That bushy tail is beautiful. The first thing I noticed is that the wings sort of look as though they've been draped over a black frame, like a glass table with a cloth over it. Very pretty.

Jeannette StG said...

The prom girl of moths! The tail and wings look so festive!

eileeninmd said...

Neat looking Moth, I like the translucent look. great photo.

Snap said...

Beautiful moth. Wonderful post and educational. Thanks!

Jane said...

Wow! I love the iridicent wings it has, great shot of it too. Thanks for sharing it with us:)

i beati said...

look at that shimmering new year outfit sandy

eden said...

such a beautiful moth. great photo.

please check out mine if you have time. i have moth too.

WR said...

This moth is a first for me as well! You are quite correct, the cold winter is trudging close to the door step and soon birds and insects will thin. Here a few tiny spiders have crept into the house and found high corners to perch and hunt. But the rest of natures critters become less visible by the day. Did you feel the affects of the tropical storm that blew up the east coast this past week? Have a peaceful week end.

Marvin said...

WR: No effects here from the storm. Everything occurred to our southeast. We are about to receive our most wintery weather thus far, though. Overcast, rain and low temps in the thirties. My favorite kind of weather -- NOT! Oh well, at least the temps are supposed to remain above freezing so there will be no ice.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I love that moth's tail, how amazing!

Helen said...

That is a beautiful moth. I have never seen any like that. Helen