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Old 06-26-2010, 12:50 PM   #1
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Default colorful moth! helpful against invasive species!

I have seen this moth on two separate occasions and both time on milkweed. The first photo I found on the internet, the second I took with my phone. Sorry it's so blurry.

It turns out it is called Atteva punctella - Ailanthus Webworm Moth. It is a native insect whose main larval food plant (Ailanthus altissima) is also known as Tree of Heaven. Hated tree by many!!

Species Atteva punctella - Ailanthus Webworm Moth - Hodges#2401 - BugGuide.Net
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Old 06-26-2010, 02:41 PM   #2
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We need to raise a BUNCH of them! They actually eat Ailanthus altissima...WOW, quite pretty and helpful.
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Old 06-26-2010, 04:43 PM   #3
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Interesting that the main larval food of a native is a tree which is not. We aren't burdened by those trees in this area, but I've heard nightmare stories of them.

As to the larval food animal being a native, I guess the dill and fennel being a larval food for the black swallowtail is a similar phenomenon.
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Old 06-30-2010, 07:05 AM   #4
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Yes, I find it strange as well, Jack! Now that I have some free time, I will research it further to see if there are other plants (native) that it eats as well.

Saw a few more of these colorful moths hanging out on the milkweed yesterday. They must really be attracted to the fruity fragrance!
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Old 06-30-2010, 11:57 PM   #5
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Ailanthus webworm

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The Ailanthus webworm is thought to be native to South Florida and the American tropics, habitat to its original larval host plant, the Paradise Tree (Simarouba glauca). Another tree called Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), originally from China, has been widely introduced and "Atteva punctella" has jumped to this new host plant (giving it its common name, Ailanthus webworm). The moth does not survive cold winters, but migrates north each year so it is commonly seen in summer throughout the continental US, and occasionally eastern Canada.
Ailanthus Webworm (Atteva punctella)

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A possible explaination is they originated in South Florida and the tropics south of that where they feed on Paradise Tree, Simarouba glauca. Both of these host plants are in the Simaroubaceae family, so the switch to Ailanthus wasn't that radical a departure in their diet
Simarouba glauca / Paradise Tree
Pronunciation: sim-uh-ROO-buh GLAW-kuh
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Old 07-01-2010, 08:26 AM   #6
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Gloria beat me to it! Nice detective work, Watson!
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Old 07-01-2010, 10:38 AM   #7
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Why thank you Holmes.
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