Are these nocturnal raiders infiltrating your garden?

By Dr Chris Burwell, Senior Curator of Insects at Queensland Museum

Queensland Museum entomologist Dr Chris Burwell delves into the nocturnal raiders that are infiltrating gardens in south-east Queensland right now – fruit piercing moths.

My fellow curator Patrick Couper recently photographed some nocturnal raiders feeding on his carambola fruit. They weren’t the usual fruit bats or possums. They were moths, fruit piercing moths.

Most adult moths have a tightly coiled proboscis beneath their heads which acts like a drinking straw. They can uncoil this proboscis and use it to suck up liquids, usually nectar from flowers. The tip of the proboscis of a fruit-piercing moths is different that of other moths; it is hardened, has a sharp point and is armed with teeth. Fruit-piercing moths thrust the tip of the proboscis through the skin of ripe or ripening fruit and suck up the juices. A wide variety of fruits are on the menu including carambola, fig, guava, kiwifruit, mango, stonefruit, persimmon and ripening papaya. They can even tap the juices of fruit with thick skins like bananas, lychees and citrus fruits.

The most common fruit-piercing moths are species of Eudocima. They are large, stout moths with camouflage-brown forewings and brightly coloured orange hindwings. Despite their attractive appearance they are pests of the fruit industry. The flesh can become bruised or dry where the moths have been feeding. Microorganisms can enter though the moths’ puncture wounds causing the fruit to rot. Other moth species are attracted to the handiwork of fruit-piercing moths. They take advantage of the access holes drilled by the fruit-piercers to feed on juices or the fermenting fruit.

If you have fruiting trees in your garden try venturing out at night with a strong torch and you might catch a fruit-piercing moth in the act.

Image credit: Patrick Couper

Two fruit-piercing moths (Eudocima fullonia) sucking the juice of a carambola fruit.

Image credit: Patrick Couper

Other moths, like this Serrodes campana on the left, take advantage of the handiwork of fruit-piercing moths like Eudocima fullonia on the right, feeding at their puncture wounds.

Image credit: Patrick Couper

Another free-loader, a specimen of Ophiusa disjungens feeding at the puncture wound made by a fruit-piercing moth.

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