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Yucca Moth.jpg
Yucca Moth
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Suborder: Glossata
Infraorder: Heteroneura
Superfamily: Incurvarioidea
Family: Prodoxidae
Riley, 1881

Prodoxus (syn: Agavenema)

About 9 genera and 98 species

The Prodoxidae are a family of moths, generally small in size and nondescript in appearance. They include species of moderate pest status, such as the currant shoot borer, and others of considerable ecological and evolutionary interest, such as various species of "Yucca Moths".

Description and affinities[edit]

Lampronia corticella

Prodoxidae are a family of primitive monotrysian Lepidoptera. Some of these small-to-medium sized moths are day flying, like Lampronia capitella, known to European gardeners as the "Currant Shoot Borer".[2] Others occur in Africa and Asia. The other common genera are generally confined to dry areas of the United States. Tetragma gei feeds on Mountain Avens (Geum triflorum) in the USA. Greya politella lay eggs in the flowers of Saxifragaceae there. Prodoxoides asymmetra occurs in Chile and Argentina (Nielsen and Davis, 1985), but all other prodoxid moth genera have a northern distribution. The enigmatic genus Tridentaforma is sometimes placed here and assumed to be close to Lampronia, while other authors consider it incertae sedis among the closely related family Adelidae.

Yucca moths[edit]

"Yucca Moths" have a remarkable biology. They are famous for an old and intimate relationship with Yucca plants and are their obligate pollinators as well as herbivores (Pellmyr et al., 1996). Interactions of these organisms range from obligate mutualism to commensalism to outright antagonism. Their bore holes are a common sight on trunks of such plants as the Soaptree yucca. Two of the three yucca moth genera in particular, Tegeticula and Parategeticula, have an obligate pollination mutualism with yuccas. Yuccas are only pollinated by these moths, and the pollinator larvae feed exclusively on yucca seeds; the female moths use their modified mouthparts to insert the pollen into the stigma of the flowers, after having oviposited in the ovary, where the larvae feed on some (but not all) of the developing ovules. Species of the third genus of yucca moths, Prodoxus, are not engaged in the pollination mutualism, nor do the larvae feed on developing seeds. Their eggs are deposited in fruits and leaves, where they eat and grow, not emerging until fully mature.


  • Davis, D.R. (1999). The Monotrysian Heteroneura. Ch. 6, pp. 65–90 in Kristensen, N.P. (Ed.). Lepidoptera, Moths and Butterflies. Volume 1: Evolution, Systematics, and Biogeography. Handbuch der Zoologie. Eine Naturgeschichte der Stämme des Tierreiches / Handbook of Zoology. A Natural History of the phyla of the Animal Kingdom. Band / Volume IV Arthropoda: Insecta Teilband / Part 35: 491 pp. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York.
  • Nielsen, E.S. and Davis, D.R. (1985). The first southern hemisphere prodoxid and the phylogeny of the Incurvarioidea (Lepidoptera). Systematic Entomology, 10: 307-322.
  • Pellmyr, O., Thompson, J.N., Brown, J. and Harrison, R.G. (1996). Evolution of pollination and mutualism in the yucca moth lineage. American Naturalist, 148: 827-847.
  • Powell, J. A. (1992). Interrelationships of yuccas and yucca moths. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 7: 10–15, Britannica Online Encyclopedia.

External links[edit]