Comparing the effects of the exotic cactus-feeding moth, Cactoblastis cactorum (Berg) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) and the native cactus-feeding moth, Melitara prodenialis (Walker) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) on two species of Florida Opuntia.
This study examined the effects of the native cactus moth borer, Melitara prodenialis, and the invasive cactus moth borer, Cactoblastis cactorum, on two common cactus species, Opuntia stricta and O. humifusa at coastal and inland locations in central Florida. Opuntia stricta were present only at coastal sites and O. humifusa were present at coastal and inland sites. Throughout the duration of the study, coastal plants were subject to damage solely by C. cactorum and inland plants solely by M. prodenialis. Results showed marginally significantly higher numbers of eggsticks on O. stricta than O. humifusa and significantly higher numbers at coastal sites than at inland sites. There was also significantly higher moth damage on O. stricta than O. humifusa and at coastal sites than inland sites, but not significantly so. However, there was a higher level of plant mortality for O. humifusa than for O. stricta and a significantly higher level of cactus mortality at inland sites when compared to coastal sites. This increased mortality may be due to increased attack by true bugs, Chelinidea vittiger, and by Dactylopius sp., combined with attack by M. prodenialis. Inland plants also tended to be smaller than coastal plants and could be more susceptible to the combined effects of all insects. Further long-term research on coastal cactus survival when attacked and unattacked by Cactoblastis is necessary to fully determine the effects of this moth on Opuntia survival.