Yucca Moth

Yucca Moth

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Tegeticula sp.
YUCCA MOTHS (Prodoxidae)

In early summer Yucca plants bloom and their special insects, the Yucca Moths, emerge from pupas in the ground where they spent the winter. The tiny white moths fly into the flowers where they will spend their short lives and ensure that they and the plants they pollinate will continue to live and reproduce.

The Yucca Plants grow at Neale Woods at the entrance to the Nature Center. When the flowers bloom, the tiny Yucca Moths fly up into the flowers. The female will pollinate the flowers as only she can and the plant will produce seeds for her larvae to feed on. This mutually beneficial relationship is vital for the survival of both plant and moth.

At maturity, yucca pollen grains are sticky masses called pollinia. The female Yucca Moth has specialized curved prehensile appendages in her mouth (maxillary palpi) to collect, form and carry a pollen ball. She inserts her ovipositer into the ovary wall and deposits one egg into the ovule chamber. Next she draws the pollen mass back and forth over the stigma, insuring pollination of the flower. The larva hatches and feeds on the maturing seeds. It only consumes a small percentage of the hundreds of seeds within the seed capsule. In late fall the larva drops to the ground, burrows into the soil and constructs a silken cocoon covered with sand grains in which it spends the winter.

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