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InsectsSpecies Animal

Theresimima ampelophaga

Theresimima ampelophaga

The Vine bud moth (Theresimima ampelophaga Bayle-Barelle, 1809) is a moth belonging to the Zygaenidae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Animalia,
Subkingdom Eumetazoa,
Superphylum Protostomia,
Phylum Arthropoda,
Subphylum Tracheata,
Superclass Hexapoda,
Class Insecta,
Subclass Pterygota,
Endopterygota cohort,
Superorder Oligoneoptera,
Panorpoidea section,
Order Lepidoptera,
Suborder Glossata,
Infraorder Heteroneura,
Ditrysia Division,
Superfamily Zygaenoidea,
Zygaenidae family,
Subfamily Procridinae,
Procridini Tribe,
Genus Theresimima,
Species T. ampelophaga.
The term is basionym:
– Zygaena ampellophaga Bayle-Barelle, 1809.
The terms are synonymous:
– Ino ampellophaga (Bayle-Barelle, 1808);
– Procris amphilopaga (Kumakov & Korshunov, 1979);
– Procris amphilophaga (Kumakov & Korshunov, 1979);
– Procris vitis Boisduval, 1828;
– Sphinx ampelophaga (Hübner);
– Sphinx vitis Freyer;
– Theresia ampelophada (Benyumov, Samsonov, Tyetyureva, Shimbireva & Simolin, 1971);
– Theresimima ampellohaga Efetov & Tarmann, 1999;
– Theresimima amphellophaga Tarmann, 1998;
– Theresimima amphelophaga Zocchi, 1953;
– Theresimima astrapta Dannehl, 1933.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Theresimima ampelophaga is a moth present mainly in southern Europe, North Africa and western Asia. It is a typical species of the southern regions, although, with climate changes, it has spread, endemically, to the northern regions.
The current range of this species falls within the Palearctic ecozone, including Mediterranean Europe up to the Black Sea (southwestern Spain, southern France, continental Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia , Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and European Russia), Northern Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Egypt) and Western Asia (Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Cyprus and countries of the Caucasus). Although the use of insecticides has restricted or modified the range of the species in the past, its transition to other imported host plants has allowed it to regain previously abandoned parts of the territory. It is very likely that the current range does not correspond to the historical one, and it may be that the species is to be considered a tropical African or Asian relic.
Its habitat is that of areas with shrubby vegetation, mixed meadows and vineyards.

Morphology –
Theresimima ampelophaga is a moth in which the adult insect is a medium-sized butterfly (20-30 mm wingspan) with bronze or brownish wings and a bluish-green body (thorax and abdomen).
There is a sexual bimorphism with a wingspan ranging from 18 to 25 mm in males, to 16 to 24 mm in females.
The color of both wings is a rather uniform brownish, sometimes slightly heavier at the level of the termen, and with lighter iridescences. The rear wing, shorter and rounded than the front one, is narrower than that of other Procridinae with similar distribution (e.g. Rhagades pruni and Adscita subsolana).
The lower part of the wings takes on the color of the back, but has a slightly paler shade, with brownish-orange colored ends.
The antennae, which reach two thirds of the length of the body, are combed in males and worm-like in females, with 35-38 antennomeres equipped with bright green scales. The spirotromba is atrophied and non-functional.
The head and thorax are brownish and shiny, while the abdomen is bluish in colour, with lighter rings, varying in color between green and brown.
In the male genitalia, the uncus is shorter than in most Palearctic procridines, and reveals a base with a triangular section. Tegumen and vinculum are only slightly sclerotized. The aedeagus is medium sized, slightly curved upwards, with a developed cornutus; sometimes two other smaller horned ones are observable. The ductus ejaculatorius presents a certain number of small triangular-section spinules distally.
In the female genitalia, the antrum is flat and very sclerotized; the ductus bursae appears long and translucent. The corpus bursae appears small and somewhat spherical. The papillae are developed, with reduced apophyses.
The eggs are oval in shape, initially yellowish in color and later greenish. These are laid between May and September, in groups of 20-80 on the underside of the leaves of the host plants.
The caterpillar is found all year round, and represents the way in which the species survives the winter. The first three larval stages appear whitish, then the integument begins to darken, although remaining yellowish-white on the belly. The head appears blackish. The body has no tubercles, but several rows of bristles both dorsally and on the sides. When fully ripe it measures from 18 to 22 mm.
The chrysalises, found in the period between March and July, are initially white, but later tend to become yellowish. They are found inside little silky cocoons, of a pure white colour, attached to the bark of the host plant, near rough edges or cracks, or between the leaves.

Aptitude and biological cycle –
Theresimima ampelophaga begins its biological cycle with the eggs hatching six to eight days after being laid. The caterpillars go through five stages of maturation in total, rather than six as in the other Procridinae.
The first stage feeds exclusively on young buds and leaf parenchyma, so much so that it transforms the parasitized leaf into an irregular tangle of veins. This means that the plant must awaken the secondary buds; in the case of the vine, the phenomenon leads to a decline in the quality of the wine product. As the larva develops, it begins to attack all parts of the leaf, causing, in some cases, the death of the plant.
Diapause is between stage III and IV. Generally speaking, if the attack occurs during spring, the damage to the plant is greater, affecting not only the buds, but almost completely stripping the host of its leaves, and causing its weakening or death. If, however, the attack occurs in late summer, the damage is limited mostly to the lower surface of the leaf, where the most tender plant tissues are found.
The caterpillar pupates by weaving a flimsy cocoon which is usually found attached to the bark of the host plant. The chrysalis breaks through the cocoon, freeing itself just before the image emerges.
The adults emerge late at night or in the early hours of the morning, and being incapable of feeding, they have exclusively reproductive purposes. Mating occurs in the first 24-48 hours after emergence, usually at dusk, when the adults are most active.
Emergencies and the flight period range from April to October, usually with a single generation, but in other areas (such as Hungary and Lebanon) the species is believed to be bivoltine.
The damage is caused by the larvae and occurs both on the leaves and the buds.
On the leaves the damage manifests itself differently, depending on the seasonal period of attack:
– if the attack is spring, there is actual skeletonization with erosion of the leaf blades (keeping the veins intact) and of the young shoots;
– if the attack occurs in summer, the leaves are eroded not completely but in areas, in which only the lower parenchyma is eaten, while the upper surface is left intact.
On the buds, the damage is caused by the wintering larvae that enter inside them, before they open, emptying them or compromising, more or less seriously, the meristematic axes. Often, when the main bud is attacked, the plant is forced to awaken replacement buds which are much less productive.
The overall damage can become considerable if the attack is massive.

Ecological Role –
Theresimima ampelophaga is the only representative of the genus Theresimima Strand, 1917.
The caterpillars of this moth feed on Vitis vinifera L., 1753 (common vine) and two other species of Vitaceae imported from North America: Parthenocissus quinquefolia (L.) Planch., 1887 (American vine) and Parthenocissus vitacea (Knerr) Hitchc. (false Virginia vine).
This insect, in turn, is subject to parasitism by other insect species; among these are: Apanteles ultor Reinhard, 1880 (Hymenoptera, Braconidae), Brachymeria intermedia (Nees, 1834) (Hymenoptera, Chalcididae), Exorista spp. Meigen, 1803 (Diptera, Tachinidae), Hocheria unicolor Walker, 1834 (Hymenoptera, Chalcididae), Trichogramma evanescens Westwood, 1833 (Hymenoptera, Trichogrammatidae), Zenillia libatrix (Panzer, 1798) (Diptera, Tachinidae).
However, in today’s specialized cultivations with little biodiversity, the percentage of cases of parasitism out of the total number of T. ampelophaga individuals is too small to be able to carry out effective control on its population.
For this reason the fight has been implemented using insecticides and is carried out, in the pre-sprouting and bud opening phases, against the wintering larvae that are emerging from the twigs.
The fight must however be guided and makes use of sampling on 20-30 vines per hectare; the proposed intervention threshold is on average 6-7 larvae present per plant, at the indicated phenological stages (pre-budding and bud opening).
In northern Africa, Spain, southern Italy and Hungary, the main method of combating this species is represented by the spraying of insecticides, as the use of natural competitors (biological and integrated pest control) has not given great results. Bacillus thuringiensis var. can also be used. Kurstaki, the toxins of which cause a paralytic disease in the larva.
Agroecological techniques, with the increase in shrub/tree associations and the increase in hedges and walls (where possible) can significantly reduce the use of synthetic products.

Guido Bissanti

– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Russo G., 1976. Agricultural Entomology. Special Part. Liguori Editore, Naples.
– Pollini A., 2002. Manual of applied entomology. Edagricole, Bologna.
– Tremblay E., 1997. Applied entomology. Liguori Editore, Naples.

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