Olethreutine Moths of the Midwestern United States

KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OHFebruary 4, 2012

Olethreutine Moths of the Midwestern United States: An Identification Guide

By: Todd Gilligan, Donald Wright, and Loran Gibson

First a side story: I took an entomology class last quarter. My lab TA specializes in microhymenoptera. We talked about microepidoptera. On more than one occasion, he talked about how he would never do microlepidoptera because those folks had to do dissections and separate the reproductive tracts. I did not know what he was talking about but I never asked him to explain. Why I brought it up will become clear later.

This book is another in a series put out by the Ohio Biological Survey. I've been buying some of their books and found out about this one last week. It is the priciest one, going for $75. Figured I'd try getting one from a library before I shelled out the money. OSU campus in Marion had a copy, which I find strange since the Columbus and Wooster campuses are the ones that have the advanced entomology courses. Anyway, the book came in and I can understand why it is the priciest. It is hardcover with lots of pictures.

While flipping through the book, two things caught my eye. First was that many of the moths in the pictures are missing their abdomens. Second was lots of pages of male and female genitalia pictures. The book is 334 pages long and 107 of those pages are genitalia pictures. Suddenly, what my TA had talked about came into focus. People who collect these moths (which tend to have a wingspan between 5 to 10 mm long) cut off the moths' abdomens, remove the genitalia, stain it, and study it to determine what moth they have. And even then I read multiple times, "Genitalia of the two species are indistinguishable." And I know a guy out in New Mexico who is there just to find new microlepidoptera. I cannot imagine doing what he must be doing all the time.

The book covers 306 Olethreutinae moths (they are a subfamily of the family Tortricidae) that are found in the midwest US. The book has 5 plates that show pics of all 306 moths, which makes it easier to identify a moth instead of going through all the pages.

Moths are split up by tribe but the book does not explain anything about why the tribe classification exists. Then the moths are classified by genus. Each genus is explained, some in a lot of detail. Each species gets a bigger than life pic, size specs, flight period, distribution, larval hosts, and some remarks about the adult. Many times, the book also has tidbits on the larvae's habits including where pupation occurs.

There are pictures of 12 eggs, 36 caterpillars, and 2 pupa.

The most interesting tidbit I found in the book was you can sex these moths by the frenulum. The males have single stout bristle while the females have 2-3 finer bristles. Don't know what a frenulum is? It is something most moths have but butterflies do not. It is a filament on the hindwing that couples with varying parts of the forewing.

The beginning of the book spends 10 pages getting you up to speed with the terms that are used in the book. Sometimes the only difference between two species is the hair pencil on the hind tibia, so you need to know what that means. The last 15 pages cover eggs, larvae, and pupa. Details on raising and preserving larvae are included. I found the history of larvae preservation to be interesting.

The book says it is geared towards amateur collectors and professional entomologists. With all the genitalia pictures, I'd agree with the professional entomologist part.

Since I'm more into trying to identify caterpillars, I cannot cost justify me spending $75 on this book. YMMV


Here is a link that might be useful: Ohio Biological Survey - click on Publications

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Is this all academic fuss over the moths, or do any of the species have economic importance?

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 11:07PM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

Unfortunately, many of the moths have economic importance (unfortunate and economically important because they adversely affect important crops/trees). My guess is the worst ones don't belong in the US in the first place.

Cydia pomonella (codling moth) is probably the most well known example since it is the caterpillar you don't want to find half of in your apple. ;) Book points out that the moth was introduced from Eurasia (so were apples, right?). "Females lay eggs singly on fruits, stems, or leaves of the host. Larvae overwinter under tree bark and pupate in the spring."

Cydia latiferreana (filbertworm) is a North American moth. The cat feeds inside nuts. Pest of cultivated filberts and hazelnuts. The moths are "extremely variable" and "constitute a species complex," a phrase I had not seen before reading this book. The book says somebody named Heinrich figured out there are seven forms of this moth.

Cydia caryana (hickory shuckworm) was only found in the eastern US but has been able to spread all the way to New Mexico despite efforts to stop it. "Inflicts considerable damage on pecan crops."

Grapholita molesta (oriental fruit moth) was introduced from Japan. Primarily affects peach growers. "Early instar larvae burrow into the shoots, and later instars feed in fruits. Three generations develop in the North, six or seven in the South."

Rhyacionia buoliana (European pine shoot moth) is not from around here, as its common name implies. Was introduced early last century. One of the biggest moths in the book at 11 mm. "Early instars mine needle bases; the third and fourth instars feed in buds and pass the winter under a shelter of pitch. Bud and shoot feeding resumes in the spring." Their feeding results in "disfigurement of young trees, particularly in plantations" so that is why Christmas tree growers would not like them.

Zeiraphera canadensis (spruce bud moth) is one of those rare lepidoptera that overwinters as an egg. "Larvae hatch in spring as buds start to burst" and "begin feeding on developing needles under broken budcaps." What I found interesting is for many years entomologists thought the moth was Z. ratzeburgiana, a moth introduced from Europe. In 1966, a couple guys figured out it was a distinct species found only in Canada and northern US.

So there is a taste of economically important moths covered in the book.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 3:31PM
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Well that is quite a taste. The comment about overwintering eggs prompts me to mention a recent OPB Oregon Field Guide segment about the Pine White butterfly. An outbreak has occurred in recent years in the Blue Mountains of Oregon, largely defoliating 400 square miles of conifers. Not much logging done around here anymore, so the economic importance is less.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 11:34PM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

I don't remember hearing about pine whites before. I see that outbreaks of them are expected but not very often (every 30 to 50 years).

I currently have two more lepidoptera books from Ohio Biological Survey to review. Don't know when I'll get around to it. They are purchases so I'm not in a rush like I was with the library's book. One is on Ohio slug caterpillars (probably more about the moths that come from caterpillars). I looked up the skiff moth in the book since I got to raise one. I was surprised to learn they are abundant in Ohio.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 12:45AM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

On Saturday, I went to the open house at the OSU Museum of Biological Diversity. This is where Ohio State houses its insect collection. I met the guy who wrote the immature stages part of this book. Weird part is his name is not on the cover but is instead on the first page of that part of the book. He also told me about which pictures he took but my brain did not bother to file that info. :( We swapped info because he is looking for help on an RSP project. I'm sure hoping I see more RSPs this year than last year or I'll be zero help.

Here is a link that might be useful: Steve Passoa

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 1:38AM
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