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Photographer: Jeffrey W. Lotz
Source: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services,
Cover photo: Susan Ellis

Cactus Moth

Cactoblastis cactorum

Origin: Native of Argentina

Impact: Cactus moth larvae live and feed communally inside the pads of prickly pear cacti. Damaged pads will show characteristic oozing of internal plant juices at the spines and insect droppings, will yellow as they become more damaged, and will become hollow and translucent as the larvae consume the pad from the inside.

Nothing else looks like cactus moth larvae. They begin as pink-cream colored caterpillars, but as they mature they become bright orange-red with large dark spots on the dorsal surface of each body segment that coalesce with age to form dark bands. Mature larvae are 25 to 30 mm long. The larvae are much easier to identify than the non-descript adults.

Adult cactus moths are non-descript, gray-brown moths with faint dark spots and wavy transverse lines marking the wings. The rear margins of the hindwings are whitish, and semitransparent; and the antennae and legs are long. The wing span of the adults ranges from 22 to 35 mm.

Learn More: Species Profile.

Report Form

If you have spotted Cactoblastis cactorum (Cactus Moth), use this report form to send an email to the appropriate authorities.

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