18 July 2017 - Fruit Lover in Frenzy

Large Fruit-tree Tortrix (Archips podana)
I woke up Sunday morning to find a frenzy of moths fluttering about in the trap. Moths are usually docile and like staying still on the egg-boxes, (apart from the Yellow Underwings that just like to crawl all over everything) but on this occasion most were actively flying around.  This caused a chain reaction as they barged into other moths. The most hectic of the bunch were still the Yellow Underwings, but Mother of Pearls and Garden Grass Veneers also partook in the hysteria.

It was necessary for Patrick and I to go through the trap together, as having another pair of eyes helps us not to miss any that fly away.  However, we were still no match for the plethora of moths covering the interior. While I believe we got most of the moths we were uncertain about and identified many of the others, there were still some that managed to evade our line of sight. We estimated around 400 moths were caught and there were 53 different species I managed to record.

The Large Fruit-tree Tortrix (Archips podana) was one that stood out. I immediately recognized it as a tortrix but it was huge compared to the other species in the family Tortricidae. I had never really considered the sizes of micro moths until now and the variety still amazes me. This one was easy to distinguish as it is larger than most and its pattern is quite simple to recognise.   Archips podana is sexually dimorphic, which means the male has a different pattern on the fore-wings than the female. The one we have is a male as it’s more colorful and the tip of its wings do not curve upwards so much. Its name Archips describes ‘a worm or larvae that eats vine-buds’; the larvae are also pests to some fruit trees. 

The other half of the binomial is podana which is named after the Austrian physicist and entomologist Nikolaus Poda von Neuhaus.  Neuhaus was primarily focused on physics and mathematics and became a professor of such subjects, but later created a natural history collection which included insects.

Apple Tree (unknown variety)
The larvae of the Large Fruit-tree Tortrix, like its name suggests, feed on the foliage, flowers, and fruit of deciduous trees like apple and plum. We have a couple of fruit trees in our garden including a Keswick Codlin apple tree which is appreciated for its early production in the season and its effectiveness for making a sweet puree.

Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]