Lepidopterous Larvae That Eat Bromeliads | Pests of Bromeliads | Bromeliad Biota

Lepidopterous larvae (caterpillars of butterflies and moths)

that eat bromeliads

Acrolophidae. Larvae of Acrolophus pallidus Moschler were reported from bromeliads in Costa Rica without details other than it was common (Picado 1913). Larvae of Acrolophus vigia Beutelspacher (1969) were found among organic debris in the water of water-containing leaf axils of Aechmea mexicana and Vriesia chiapensis Matuda in Veracruz, Mexico. They were noted to produce silk, and they were reared on a diet of pieces of bromeliad leaf. In 1994, this writer stripped the leaves from several large Werauhia werckleana (Mez) J. R. Grant on a fallen tree in Chiriquí, Panama, and found several large Acrolophus sp. larvae mining stems, one of which proved to be parasitized by larvae of Bracon sp. (Hymenoptera: Braconidae). There may be less difference between behaviors of these Acrolophus spp. than is apparent from the statements because a larva eating leaves below the water line is surely consuming leaf bases which tightly surround the stem, and likely consuming the stem too; damage to the stem may not be apparent without stripping the leaves off the stem.

Tineidae. Larvae of banana moth, Opogona sacchari (Bojer), attack various cultivated monocotyledons including stems of bromeliads and crowns of pineapple (Davis & Peña 1990, Vorsino et al. 2005).  

Coleophoridae. Larvae of Holcocera bromeliae (Walsingham) are known from bromeliads in Costa Rica (Picado 1913).

Pyralidae. Larvae of Epimorius testaceellus Ragonot (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) develop within the flower pods of Tillandsia fasciculata in Florida, producing considerable local damage (Heppner & Frank 2007). A tiny parasitoid (Hymenoptera: Eurytomidae: Eurytoma) is reported to attack these larvae (Bugbee 1975).

Castniidae. All were originally mentioned in the literature as being species of Castnia. One such is Castnia boisduvalii Walker larvae eating Tillandsia aeranthos (Loiseleur) L.B. Smith from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil (Biezanko 1961). At least eight other species have been reported, most of them because of damage they do to pineapple in Brazil and Venezuela. Subsequent taxonomic research on Castniidae has resulted in name changes at the level of genus, species, and subspecies. Others have been detected occasionally by this writer in large epiphytic bromeliads (Tillandsia, Vriesia and Werauhia) in natural areas in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama and doubtless are yet more widely distributed in the tropics. The fully grown pale larvae are large (» 5cm), and their mining activities surely result in plant death. Their population sizes may be limited by parasitoids, although such parasitoids have not been reported. Dr J.Y. Miller is preparing for publication a taxonomic review of Castniidae including host-plant records (which will point out which of the many species eat bromeliads). Dr. J.M. González and co-authors have recently added information for species occurring in Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago, and Venezuela.  Albertoni et al. (2012) recorded larvae of Geyeria decussata as feeding on the leaf bases of Aechmea nudicaulis, Vriesea phillippocoburgiii and Wittrockia superba in southern Brazil, and they described the pupa and illustrated the adult.

A castniid larva, about 3 cm long, extracted from its mine in the stem of a Tillandsia bromeliad in Guatemala.

Lycaenidae. Strymon ziba (Hewitson) is a widespread butterfly (Mexico, Central America, South America) whose larvae have been documented to attack fruits of Aechmea bracteata in Mexico, Aechmea nudicaulis in Brazil, and Ananas comosus (pineapple) in Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Trinidad, and Peru, as well as bracts and flowers of several species of Heliconia, and one each of Strelitzia, and Xiphidium (Robbins 2010). Larvae of Strymon megarus (Godart), also widespread, have been documented to attack leaves and flowers of Bromelia pinguin in Costa Rica, and pineapple in Brazil and Argentina. Close relatives of S. megarus that have been documented to attack bromeliads are S. lucena (Hewitson), S. oreala (Hewitson), S. serapio (Godman & Salvin), S. azuba (Hewitson), and S. gabatha (Hewitson). These seven are the only species of Lycaenidae recognized by Robbins (2010) as attacking bromeliads; records of other species (or at least other species names) in the literature are due to misidentifications, misspellings, and synonymy. Grishin & Durden (2012) described Strymon solitario as a new species detected in Texas (USA) and Tamaulipas (Mexico) whose larvae feed on flowerbuds, flowers and fruits of Hechtia texensis.

Riodinidae. The caterpillar of Napaea eucharilla Bates was estimated to cause up to 4.4% loss of leaf area on Werauhia sanguinolenta (Linden ex Cogniaux & Marchal) J. R. Grant in Panama (Schmidt & Zotz 2000) and also was found to eat leaves of Aechmea bracteata and A. nudicaulis in Veracruz, Mexico (Beutelspacher 1972), while the caterpillar of Caria ino Godman & Salvin was observed to eat leaves of Tillandsia caput-medusae in Guerrero, Mexico (Beutelspacher 1972).

Nymphalidae. Caterpillars of three South American species of Dynastor eat bromeliad leaves, listed as a compendium with records of their host bromeliads by Penz et al. (1999) with additions by Romero et al. (2005).

Albertoni, F.F., Moraes, S.S., Steiner, J., Zillikens, A. 2012. Description of the pupa and redescription of the imagines of Geyeria decussata and their association with bromeliads in southern Brazil (Lepidoptera: Castniidae). Entomologia Generalis 34: 61-74.

Beutelspacher B., C. R. 1969. Una especie nueva de Acrolophus Poey, 1832, de bromeliáceas (Lepidoptera: Acrolophidae). Anales del Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Serie Zoología 40: 43-48.

Beutelspacher B., C. R. 1972. Some observations on the Lepidoptera of bromeliads. Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society 26: 133-137.

Biezanko, C.M. 1961. Castniidae, Zygaenidae, Dalceridae, Eucleidae, Megalopygidae, Cossidae et Hepialidae da Zona Missioneira do Rio Grande do Sul (Contribução ao conhocimento da fisiografia do Rio Grande do Sul). Arquivos de Entomologia Série B, Escola de Agronomia “Eliseu Maciel” 14: 1-12.

Bugbee, R.E. 1975. A new species of the genus Eurytoma (Hymenoptera: Eurytomidae) from a pyralid occurring in the flower pods of Tillandsia fasciculata. Journal of the Georgia Entomological Society 10: 91-93.

Davis, D.R., Peña, J.E. 1990. Biology and morphology of the banana moth, Opogona sacchari (Bojer) and its introduction into Florida (Lepidoptera: Tineidae). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 92: 593-618.

Grishin, N.V., Durden, C.J. 2012. New bromeliad-feeding Strymon species from Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA and its vicinity. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 66: 81-110.

González, J.M. 2004. Castniidae (Lepidoptera: Castniidae) from Venezuela. VI. The genus Athis.  Diagnosis and comments. Caribbean Journal of Science 40: 408-413.

Gonzalez, J.M., Cock, M.J.W. 2004. A synopsis of the Castniidae (Lepidoptera) of Trinidad and Tobago. Zootaxa 762: 1-19.

Heppner, J.B., Frank, J.H. 2007. Bromeliad pod borer. University of Florida, IFAS, Featured Creatures http://creatures.ifas.ufl.edu/orn/bromeliad_pod_borer.htm (accessed August 2008).

Penz, C.M., Aiello, A., Styrgley, R.B. 1999. Early stages of Caligo illioneus and C. idomeneus (Nymphalidae: Brassolinae) from Panama, with remarks on the food plants for the subfamily. Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society 53: 142-152.

Picado, C. 1913. Les broméliacées épiphytes considerées comme milieu biologique. Bulletin des Sciences de la France et de la Belgique 47: 215-360.

Robbins, R.K. 2010. The “upside down” systematics of hairstreak butterflies (Lycaenidae) that eat pineapple and other Bromeliaceae. Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Enrivonment 45:21-37.

Romero M., F., Bermúdez, P. González, J.M. 2005. Notes on the life history of Dynastor darius darius (Fabricius) (Nymphalidae: Brassolinae) from Venezuela. Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society 59: 37-39.

Schmid, S., Schmid, V.S., Kamke, R., Steiner, J., Zillikens, A. 2010. Association of three species of Strymon, Hübner (Lycaenidae: Theclinae: Eumaeinae) with bromeliads in southern Brazil. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 42: 50-55.

Schmidt, G., Zotz, G. 2000. Herbivory in the epiphyte Vriesia sanguinolenta Cogn. & Marchal (Bromeliaceae). Journal of Tropical Ecology 16:  829-839.

Vinciguerra, R., Lozano, R., P., Hernández-Baz, F., González, J.M. 2011. Observations on Athis thysanete (Dyar, 1912) (Lepidoptera, Castniidae) from Mexico and comparative notes to other species in the family. Biodiversity Journal  2: 189-194.

Vorsino, A.E., Taniguchi, G.Y., Wright, M.G. 2005. Opogona sacchari (Lepidoptera: Tineidae), a new pest of pineapple in Hawaii. Proceedings of the Hawaiian Entomological Society 37: 97-98.



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