Synchronisation of adult activity of the archaic moth, Micropterix calthella L. (Lepidoptera, Micropterigidae), with anthesis of sedges (Carex spp., Cyperaceae) in an ancient wood

Erenler, H. E. and Gillman, M. P (2010). Synchronisation of adult activity of the archaic moth, Micropterix calthella L. (Lepidoptera, Micropterigidae), with anthesis of sedges (Carex spp., Cyperaceae) in an ancient wood. Arthropod-Plant Interactions, 4(2) pp. 117–128.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11829-010-9090-7

Abstract

Micropterix calthella L. (Micropterigidae) is a small, day-flying moth from the basal-most extant lineage of the Lepidoptera. The species name reflects its conspicuous presence on Caltha palustris L. (Ranunculaceae). However, adults also favour sedges (Carex spp., Cyperaceae), on which they gather gregariously to feed on pollen and find mates. In a UK ancient wood, the phenology of eight sedge species together with individual moth and mating pair densities were monitored from 15th April to 8th June 2009. 4841 moth sightings were recorded. Moths on Carex spikes at various developmental stages were compared with null models to test for preference patterns. Approximately 99% of individuals selected Carex spikes where dehiscing anthers were present. The sedge phenology data suggest three distinct periods of pollen production. Overlaying this with the moth data reveals moth phenology strongly linked to a suite of early and mid-season woodland sedges. Of the twenty-eight other angiosperm species (seventeen families) in flower, only Ranunculus ficaria L. (Ranunculaceae) and R. repens L. attracted moths. Adult moths kept in captivity on potted Carex flacca Schreb. for 10 days laid eggs at the plant-soil interface. When C. flacca pollen production ceased, surviving adults were moved onto freshly dehiscing anthers of potted C. pallescens L., where they survived a further 14 days. Soil-dwelling first instar larvae were observed to consume C. sylvatica Huds leaves. In a choice experiment, larvae were significantly more likely to consume C. sylvatica than Stellaria media (L.) Vill. (Caryophyllaceae) leaf material (previously noted to be favoured by larvae). Synchrony between adult moths and Carex spp., and the use of Carex by both adults and larvae, suggests sedges may be host plants for M. calthella in lowland ancient woodlands.

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