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Southwestern Squash Vine Borer Moth (Melittia calabaza)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Southwestern Squash Vine Borer Moth

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The stealthy larvae of the Southwestern Squash Vine Borer can rot a healthy plant from the inside out without ever being seen.

Updated: 01/05/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Common to states in the Southwest and Mexico, sightings of Southwestern Squash Vine Borer Moth should put gardeners and farmers on the defensive. The red-bodied, black- winged adults do not harm plants, but their caterpillars can decimate a crop in under a month. After mating, female moths lay eggs on the stems of gourd, squash, and pumpkin vines. The emerging larvae bore into the stem and live inside, eating the inner stem tissue, called the pith, as they grow. The white, wormy larvae remain hidden inside during this life stage and emerge after they pupate. Signs of plant infestation include leaf wilt and then stem rot which expands to other branches and eventually kills the plant.

When dealing with Southwestern Squash Vine Borers, the best defense is a good offense. Preventing adults from contacting the plant means the worms cannot get near their food source. Covering vine plants with row cover is effective. Employing traps to catch/kill moths may help reduce the possibility of egg-laying. Cutting off stems that appear infected can curb the spread of the larvae to other healthy branches, thereby saving the whole plant.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Garden pest insect icon
Patterned insect icon
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Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Sesiidae
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          Genus: Melittia
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            Species: calabaza

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Melittia calabaza
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 12mm to 15mm (0.47" to 0.59")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: red; black
Descriptors: dots; spots; flying; garden pest; crop pest

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 12mm (0.5in) and 15mm (0.6in)
Lo: 12mm
Md: 13.5mm
Hi: 15mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Southwestern Squash Vine Borer Moth may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Southwestern Squash Vine Borer Moth. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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