New Moth in So. Cal.
Hi Daniel,
Although the mystery pyralid has now been identified, and may be beyond the scope of your website (we don’t need help identifying it), its story may be of interest to your viewers.
Mystery Moth Appears in Southern California: In early July, 2007, Don Sterba, a birder in Culver City, Los Angeles County, California, sent me a photograph of a mystery moth he had discovered in his yard, after failing to find any images of it on the Web. Don doesn’t pretend to be an entomologist, but he was observant enough to notice that something he hadn’t seen before had suddenly become common in his neighborhood. Although I recognized the moth as a member of the family Pyralidae, subfamily Pyraustinae, I was unable to find anything that matched it in the extensive collection of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Nor was I able to match it with any images in several foreign references books I consulted. The plot thickened. So I forwarded the photograph to Dr. M. Alma Solis, a pyralid specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, based at the Smithsonian Institution. Dr. Solis suggested that I send some specimens to her for dissection and identification. As luck would have it, the annual meeting of The Lepidopterists’ Society was being held in Bakersfield, California, the next week, so I visited Don one morning to pick up the specimens he had collected, and collected a few more while I was there. I pinned and labeled them, and took some to the Lep. Soc. meeting where I gave them to one of Dr. Solis’s colleagues to be hand-carried back to Washington. A week or two later Dr. Solis identified the moth as Glyphodes onychinalis, a moth apparently native to Australasia and perhaps elsewhere. Its larvae are known to feed on oleander (Nerium oleander; Apocynaceae), a Eurasian native widely cultivated as an ornamental in the southwest and southeast United States, and particularly common in southern California. An earlier outbreak of this moth had been reported from oleander in Newport Beach, California (Orange Co.) in 2000. The moth apparently failed to become established there, because subsequent efforts to find it in the same locality were unsuccessful. The appearance of this moth in Culver City is, consequently, most likely a new introduction. How it got here and how widespread it is remains a mystery. And only time will tell whether it becomes permanently established as a pest of oleander or related ornamentals, and whether our plant pest control agencies will consider it a serious enough pest to take any eradication or control action.
Julian P. Donahue
Assistant Curator Emeritus, Entomology
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
900 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90007-4057, U.S.A.

Wow Julian,
Thanks for the wonderful dramatic addition to our site.

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