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Cactus Feeding Moths - Introduction

The relatively recent introduction of Cactoblastis cactorum, the exotic cactus moth, into the Caribbean and subsequently into the United States has generated much research, field surveys, and efforts to prevent the spread of this species into western areas of the United States and Mexico.  Other species of cactus moths, e.g., Melitara, lack the same level of destructiveness and invasiveness comparable to that of Cactoblastis.   Cactoblastis has been widely studied because of its use as a biological control agent for cactus introduced into Australia, South Africa, and elsewhere.  Yet much basic information on morphology, behavior, and other biological attributes are lacking for this important exotic species.  The native cactus moths have been studied even less Cactoblastis, with only four signification publications on native species during the past century.  Comparative information on the exotic and native cactus moths is essential for distinguishing all stages of the cactus moth from those of native species.  In addition, the answers to basic questions regarding the more invasive behavior of Cactoblastis, relative to native species, cannot be answered without greater knowledge of the latter.

The exotic Cactoblastis, native cactus feeding species, and related non-cactus feeding genera form a monophyletic clade within Pyralidae, subfamily Phycitinae.  This web site provides basic information on genera and species of this clade of phycitine moths.  More detailed information is provided for Cactoblastis, including a video illustrating the technique for preparing genitalia dissections for identifications. Bibliographies for Cactoblastis cactorum and all phycitine species in the cactus feeding clade are provided.