Saturday, 9 April 2011

Moth Feeding Frenzy

The attraction of certain moths to fruit has been noted before in this blog. It is always a spectacular site to approach the bird feeder in the dark and see the sparkling eyes of a bunch of large moths. You can do it yourself and see what you get. In different parts of the world, yo can expect very different moths.

Orchardists know these moths because of the damage they do to ripe or near ripe fruit.
A group of noctuids feeding on rotten fruit at the bird feeder.
This noctuid moth has its proboscis well inserted into this orange.

The coiled proboscis of a noctuid moth.
This is the "business end" of the moth's proboscis. It is serrated and clothed with stiff hairs. The action of the muscles of the feeding tube allow the moth to pierce the skin of the fruit and commence feeding. Although the moth will not eat much, the damage it causes to the fruit is by exposing the flesh of the fruit to fungi which will invade and discolor the fruit almost immediately. The cos to the farmer would be enormous were this to go unchecked. The large nets you see over orchards and individual trees limit this damage.

The Imperial Fruit-sucking Moth, Phyllodes imperialis, is impressive in size and colour. The larva is just as spectacular.

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