City scientists from Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have discovered three new tiger moth species in the Western Ghats, taking the total known species in the world to 14.
These moth species, being close relatives of butterflies, were discovered by researchers from the western regional central branch of ZSI during their field explorations between 2016 and 2019 in parts of Maharashtra.
Commonly known as Olepa moths, the newest additions to the species, namely Olepa ghatmatha, Olepa suryamal and Olepa zedesi, were found in Satara along the Satpura ranges and ZSI’s Pune campus.
“Moths are cryptic and nocturnal in nature, identification of organisms from this species is always a challenging task,” said Aparna Kalawate, who was part of the discovery published recently in the Journal of Insect Biodiversity.
A majority of moth species in the world are found in India, along with some in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Israel. Being minor pests whose larvae feed on standing crops of cotton, castor, maize, brinjal, and sweet potato, they add to the risk of poor farm returns obtained from these economically key crops.
Before applying pest control measures, if there is adequate knowledge about locally thriving moths, then farm produce can be saved from major pest attacks, researchers noted.
Co-researchers from ZSI, KP Dinesh and A Shabnam, added that further studies using molecular tools would be carried out, so the morphotypes of these species could be better understood with respect to their local climatic adaptations and host plants.
Climate change, too, was making conditions favourable for these pests to thrive like never before, the experts noted.
But moths were not all harmful, as they were primary foods for ants, mites, birds and reptiles, thus contributing to maintaining a healthy habitat, they added.