Species Profile

Non-pollinating Yucca Moth

Scientific Name: Tegeticula corruptrix
Taxonomy Group: Arthropods
Range: Alberta
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2013
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered


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Quick Links: | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Non-pollinating Yucca Moth

Description

The Non-pollinating Yucca Moth is a small white moth with a wingspan of 22.5 to 35.0 mm. Females are slightly larger than males. The forewings and hindwings are white dorsally and mostly brown on the ventral surface. The head has white scales, and there is no evidence of tentacles on the maxillary palp (mouth parts used to catch and swallow food). The antennae are approximately half the length of the forewing. The thorax has white scales and the legs are amber. The abdomen is tan on the dorsal side and white ventrally. Adults are usually observed within the flowers of their host plant, soapweed (a species of yucca), late in the flowering season. They are also observed on foliage or dried flower heads. In Canada, this small moth can be confused with two other white moths that are also found within soapweed flowers, the yucca moth and the five-spotted bogus yucca moth. The Non-pollinating Yucca Moth can be distinguished from the other two species mainly by its relatively larger size and the absence of small black dots on its wings.

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Distribution and Population

The Non-pollinating Yucca Moth has been reported in yucca populations from Mexico and southern Texas north to Alberta and from California east to Nebraska. In Canada, the only sustainable population of this moth exists in a soapweed population along the Lost River, in Onefour, southeastern Alberta. There is a second Alberta population along the Milk River, on the Pinhorn Grazing Reserve, in which only a single Non-pollinating Yucca Moth individual has been recorded. It is possible that the species exists in other small transplanted patches of soapweed near Medicine Hat, Alberta, and Fox Valley, Saskatchewan, or in a few presumably transplanted plants near Rockglen, Saskatchewan. Numbers of Non-pollinating Yucca Moths fluctuate greatly between years and between populations, and the moths are difficult to count as adults. The available indices of moth activity at Onefour from 1999 to 2003 are insufficient to detect population decline or trends in abundance. Only a single individual was observed in the Pinhorn population between 1998 and 2003. This population appears to have all but disappeared, undoubtedly as a result of repeated grazing of soapweed by mule deer. The survival of the Non-pollinating Yucca Moth is entirely dependent on the obligate mutualism between its host plant and the plant’s pollinator, the yucca moth. The Non-pollinating Yucca Moth requires soapweed fruit for reproduction and as food for the caterpillars. Consequently, factors influencing the survival of either soapweed or the yucca moth will also affect the Non-pollinating Yucca Moth.

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Habitat

In Canada, soapweed populations inhabited by Non-pollinating Yucca Moths occupy south-facing, sparsely vegetated and well-drained slopes protected from prevailing winds. In general, these slopes are also occupied by sparse populations of prickly pear cactus and silver sagebrush. This habitat is restricted to a dry region characterized by large daily and seasonal fluctuations in temperature, low precipitation, hot summers, and high rates of evaporation exacerbated by a high average wind speed. In Canada, the Non-pollinating Yucca Moth uses only soapweed as the host plant for the eggs and as food for the caterpillars. In the United States, soapweed and several other yucca species serve as host plants.

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Biology

Unlike yucca moths, Non-pollinating Yucca Moths do not pollinate their host plant (hence the name “non-pollinating”). Instead, Non-pollinating Yucca Moths are obligate seed predators of yuccas. The females of this moth lay their eggs only in early-stage yucca fruit. After hatching, the caterpillars feed only on yucca seeds. In late summer, the caterpillars chew their way out of the fruit and burrow into the soil, where they build a cocoon and enter diapause. They remain in this stage for up to several years before emerging from the soil as adult moths. In Alberta, adult moths emerge between early July and September. At nightfall, they gather and mate in late-blooming soapweed flowers or on soapweed stems and leaves. Finally, survival of the Non-pollinating Yucca Moth depends on the obligate mutual assistance relationship, called “mutualism,” between soapweed and the pollinating yucca moth. Without this moth pollinating its flowers, soapweed cannot produce fruit. Since the Non-pollinating Yucca Moth needs soapweed fruit on which to lay its eggs and for food for the caterpillars, the beneficial interaction between its host plant and the plant’s pollinator must be in place in order for the non-pollinating species to reproduce.

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Threats

Abundance of the Non-pollinating Yucca Moth is restricted by the number of soapweed fruit and seeds produced. Consequently, any factor that threatens the host plant or the plant’s pollinator, the yucca moth, will also adversely affect the Non-pollinating Yucca Moth. The most serious current threat to the Non-pollinating Yucca Moth is the high level of consumption of soapweed by mule deer and pronghorn antelope. These herbivores eat the flowers and fruit. The grazing greatly reduces the number of fruit produced and therefore the number of seeds produced, with the result that the reproductive success of soapweed, the yucca moth and the Non-pollinating Yucca Moth are all reduced. In addition to reducing the availability of egg-laying sites for the moth, grazing on flowers and fruit also results in the direct mortality of any caterpillars within the fruit. In addition, all moth eggs within the flowers or fruit that are eaten are destroyed. Repeated bouts of intense grazing are thought to have resulted in the near extirpation of the yucca moth from the Pinhorn population of soapweed. Other possible threats to the Non-pollinating Yucca Moth include destruction of its host plant by off-road vehicle traffic and the collection of soapweed for horticultural and medicinal uses.

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Non-pollinating Yucca Moth is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

In Alberta, the Non-pollinating Yucca Moth is not protected under any provincial statute.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Amended Recovery Strategy for the Soapweed (Yucca glauca) and Yucca Moth (Tegeticula yuccasella) and Recovery Strategy for the Non-pollinating Yucca Moth (Tegeticula corruptrix) and the Five-spotted Bogus Yucca Moth (Prodoxus quinquepunctellus) in Ca
Status First posting on SAR registry

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

12 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

COSEWIC Assessments

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Non-pollinating Yucca Moth (2013)

    Only two populations of the Non-pollinating Yucca Moth are known from an extremely small and restricted area. One site has a small and fluctuating moth population, while only a single adult was observed from 1998-2011 at the other site. This moth species is an obligate seed parasite, the larvae feeding on Soapweed seeds. It relies on the mutualistic relationship between the Soapweed and its pollinator Yucca Moth, as fruit production is needed by larvae of the Non-pollinating Yucca Moth. The loss of flowers or seeds as a result of ungulate herbivory is an ongoing threat, while in the long term Soapweed populations may be limited by the lack of fire and other disturbances that provide sites for the establishment of seedlings.
  • Response Statements - Non-pollinating Yucca Moth (2006)

    This highly specialized moth exists in Canada as a single viable population that occurs in a very small, restricted area, isolated from the main range of the species in the United States. A second isolated population is on the verge of disappearing or has already been lost. The moth is entirely dependent on the obligate mutualistic relationship between its host plant (Soapweed), which is Threatened, and the plant’s pollinator (Yucca Moth), which is Endangered. It is threatened by the high level of wild ungulate herbivory, which in some years greatly reduces recruitment of the moth, its host plant and the host plant pollinator, and by off-road vehicles that destroy the host plant.

Recovery Strategies

Orders

  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2007) (2007)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of 40 species done pursuant to paragraph 15(1)(a) and in accordance with subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (2007)

    Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to section 27 of the Species at Risk Act, hereby makes the annexed Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2006 (2006)

    2006 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
  • COSEWIC Annual Report – 2012-2013 (2013)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2012 to September 2013) from November 25 to November 30, 2012 and from April 28 to May 3, 2013. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 73 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2012-2013 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 2 Endangered: 28 Threatened: 19 Special Concern: 19 Data Deficient: 4 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 73 Of the 73 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 50 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act Terrestrial Species: December 2006 (2006)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list. Please submit your comments by March 16, 2007 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 14, 2008 for species undergoing extended consultations.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 31, 2017