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Mystery Moth

May 4, 2010

Back in late March we conducted surveys for Hawaiian Drosophilia around some properties in Kokee (Kauai) that the Navy uses. It was a great trip, worthy of more than a few posts here, but for now I’m just going to throw up some pics of a little lep species I’ve been trying to rear.

Some backround:

I found a cluster (maybe about 50 or so) of dark pink (salmon or maybe coral colored?) eggs on an Acacia koa  leaf – not technically a leaf (petiole? phyllode?), I know,  but for lack of a better term that is what I am calling it.  I was actually hoping they were koa bug eggs, but when I showed them to Steve he immediately recognized them as Lepidoptera eggs (too small for Coleotichus blackburniae).  He suggested I collect the eggs, take them back to Oahu, and try to rear to the adult form.   This is what I have been doing for the last month.  The eggs hatched on March 30th or possibly the night of the 29th.  I’ve reared them on Formosa koa the whole time up until today. They seemed to prefer eating the flowers and not the leaves.  I tried to take photos every 5 to 10 days – once again I struggled to get decent pics, but I guess they came out OK.  This morning I noticed that there were about 5 or 6 caterpillars lying motionless under the paper towel on the bottom of the cage, and when I checked again at noon, two had turned into pupae.  Another 5 or 6 were lying on top of the paper towels as well.  I’m a little bummed out because I leave for Okinawa on Saturday for three weeks, and I’m afraid the adults will not emerge (eclose?) before I leave.  I’m probably going to have to leave the pupae with a coworker or something.

Here are the pics (unfortunately I never took a photo of the eggs) – if anyone out there knows the species I would greatly appreciate your input!

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Will Haines permalink
    May 4, 2010 10:03 pm

    Hey Cory,
    Forest and Kim sent this out on Inverts-L. They are definitely noctuids, and my guess is Agrotini (tribe that includes cutworms), because of the way the larvae coil up when disturbed. There are a bunch of native and non-native species in that tribe in Hawaii, but neither Swezey nor Zimmerman included koa as a hostplant for any noctuids. They are generally polyphagous, but I think agrotines tend to hang out on the ground (at least the later instars) and snip off small plants to feed on them, rather than hang out on plants (but eggs are often on leaves of plants). I’m not sure if the native Agrotis are plant snippers, or if they crawl up and feed on plants. I think some of the subalpine ones are omnivorous scavengers. Frank Howarth might know. It’ll be interesting to see what emerges!
    The salmon colored eggs also sound right for agrotines…

    • corycampora permalink
      May 5, 2010 11:31 pm

      Thanks for looking at it Will – they did seem to spend a lot of time at the bottom of the cage and in the paper towel that I used to line the cage. Didn’t really see any signs of feeding on the Acacia confusa leaves, but the early instars definitely fed on the flowers. Looked like there was also some feeding on some of the early seed pods that were still green, although I wasn’t certain that the feeding hadn’t occurred prior to me putting the branches in the cage. Hopefully they will make it to adulthood, and in good enough condition that I can pin them out. Before I leave I’m going to separate all the pupae and place in idividual containers so when my coworkers notice they have emerged they can just throw them in the freezer. It will probably end up being a common alien species, but it has been fun taking care of them just the same – a nice diversion my normal routine at work (even though I have received some ridicule about having a bunch of caterpillars on my desk!).

  2. Will Haines permalink
    May 6, 2010 7:52 am

    Ridiculed for having caterpillars on your desk? I’m glad I don’t work there. 🙂

  3. May 15, 2010 3:06 pm

    I agree these have a very cutworm-ish look, and certainly Noctuidae. Great set of pics to document its development.

  4. Sebastian Marquez permalink
    July 21, 2010 2:00 am

    Hi Cory,

    Cool blog. I just wanted to point out that you are correct, the enlarge petioles found on mature acacia sp. are called phyllodes.

    On another note, I was volunteering at the Manoa Cliffs restoration site and stumbled upon a really interesting flat worm or slug. It had a really elongated body and had a distinctively flatten head like a hammerhead shark. Any ideas what it could be? I have pictures if that helps.

    • corycampora permalink
      July 21, 2010 9:43 am

      Hi Sebastian,

      One of my biggest regrets in life is that I never took a botany class – never too late I guess, but I just feel like such an idiot when it comes to plants. So I really appreciate the comment.

      The flatworm sounds interesting. Sounds like it could be Bipalium kewense, which is sometimes called the hammerhead flatworm.

      By the way, as it turns out, the mystery moth was probably the variegated cutworm, Peridroma saucia (Thank you Will Haines!). I need to post that to the blog one of these days.


  5. Sebastian Marquez permalink
    July 27, 2010 3:26 am

    Ah, that’s what it looks like. Thanks Cory

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