prickly pear moth
Cactoblastis cactorum (Berg)
Synonym(s): cactus moth

Cactus Moth is native to Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and southern Brazil. It is known to be established in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Hosts include cactus species such as prickly-pear. The female lays a long chain of eggs at the end of a cactus spine. The resulting 'egg-stick' resembles the spine of the cactus. After hatching, the pinkish-cream colored larvae burrow into the pad of the plant. Larvae move in groups as they feed and also push the frass onto the ground, often forming significant piles. The space inside the plant is reduced to a green mass of goo as the larvae feed. As they grow, caterpillars become orange with dark red bands across each segment. Once mature, they are about 1 to 1 1/2 of an inch long. They leave the plant and form a white cocoon on the ground, either in a protected crevice of a nearby tree or just among the debris. The adult has a 1 to 1 1/2 inch wingspan with faint dark dots and lines on the light tan wings. At rest, its wings wrap around its body. In Queensland, Australia, there are two generations per year. It is expected that development would occur faster in the warm climate of Florida.

Identification, Biology, Control and Management Resources
  • Featured Creatures - Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry and University of Florida
  • Wikipedia - Wikimedia Foundation, Inc
  • Featured Creatures - Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services