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Western Grapeleaf Skeletonizer Moth (Harrisina metallica)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Western Grapeleaf Skeletonizer Moth

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Though the adult Western Grapeleaf Skeletonizer Moth does not bite or sting, its caterpillar does both, hurting leaves and people.

Updated: 01/06/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
It may be completely black with shiny wings, or it may have a bright yellow or orange collar, but either way, an observer might take this insect for a fly or bee, but the Western Grapeleaf Skeletonizer Moth is neither. That said, it is still quite a nuisance in its own way.

Lemony colored eggs are laid in groups of 10 to 100 on the bottom of grape leaves. They hatch in about 7 days. The caterpillar is yellow and tubular. It may have a blue ring near its head and another near its rear. Its ten yellow bands of color are broken by eleven black hairy rings that can cause painful stings to humans. The spines can cause an allergic reaction that may require medical attention. Like every type of caterpillar, it has a voracious appetite and this species devours the fleshy green parts of leaves of grapevines harming the plant and its fruit production. All that remains of the leaf after the caterpillar is finished with it are its veins, still in leaf shape, giving it a skeleton-like appearance. Look for them, with gloved hands and long sleeves, under grape leaves. They chew through them from the bottom. They are a major pest to California grape-growers and wine producing industries. To further aggravate the situation, many generations can be produced in one year making it possible to see a vineyard decimated by the caterpillars in one growing season. They pupate after 40 days of feasting and emerge two weeks later as winged adults, ready and able to reproduce.

A variety of methods are used to control the larvae of the Western Grapeleaf Skeletonizer Moth: introduction of granulosis virus and species-specific parasites, the use of insecticidal spray, removal of leaf litter and debris away from plant bases, and destroying infested leaves.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Shiny insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Zygaenidae
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          Genus: Harrisina
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            Species: metallica

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Harrisina metallica
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 22mm to 30mm (0.86" to 1.18")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black
Descriptors: shiny; barbed; flare; tail

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 22mm (0.9in) and 30mm (1.2in)
Lo: 22mm
Md: 26mm
Hi: 30mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and 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 Western Grapeleaf Skeletonizer 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 Western Grapeleaf Skeletonizer Moth. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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