Micro Moth


a Sonoran Desert micro-lepidopteran, photo © by Mike Plagens

This moth was on the wing and visiting inflorescences of Sand Wash Groundsel (Senecio flaccidus) in mid December 2010. Temperature was about 11° C. Observed in the Wickenburg Mountains, Yavapai Co., Arizona, USA, The moth is about 6 mm in length.

Gelechiidae ?? -- One of the Microlepidoptera Families

Too many people believe that such a tiny moth, without bright colors, and mostly unnoticed must also be rather unimportant insofar as the ecological "Big Picture" in a vast ecosystem like the Sonoran Desert. It might even be true that any one particular species of micro-lepidoptera has a small impact, however, because there are many hundreds of species each with an inimate relationship with one or a few plant species, their collective importance must be great. Some species might be important pollinators. Others may significantly impact seed viability. And trophically, these small insects represent the food source for gnatcatchers, verdins, bats and spiders (among many others).

Working out the host relationships, seasonal biology, and life history strategies is a viable and valuable enterprise for amature field biologists. There are so many things we don't know and that should be known. Little equipment is needed to make novel discoveries and to help fill in the pieces towards an understanding of Sonoran Desert ecology. One Gelechiidae moth happens to be a major pest of cotton in Arizona, the Pink Bollworm.

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 19 December 2011