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UT Researchers Leading Charge Against Invasive Moth

UT Researchers Leading Charge Against Invasive Moth

Efforts by University of Texas at Austin researchers to learn more about an invasive species of moth that destroys prickly pear cactus have received media coverage this year.

Cactoblastis cactorum moth. Image courtesy of the US Department of Agriculture.

Cactoblastis cactorum lays its eggs on cactus and when the eggs hatch, they devour the prickly pear pads from the inside, often killing the plant. Larry Gilbert, a professor of integrative biology, is racing against time to learn more about how to contain the invasive species from South America before it threatens a cactus that is essential to the ecosystem of much of Texas and parts of Mexico.

In Texas, the cactus is crucial food for deer and javalina, as well as shelter for quail and other birds. In Mexico, young cactus pads are a staple food source for people.

Gilbert and research scientist Rob Plowes have offered a plan to introduce a parasitic wasp, which is a natural predator of the cactus moth, in order to control the spread of this invasive species. 

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Wednesday, 15 July 2020

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