In 1965, the Old World Climbing Fern was accidentally introduced to Florida from southeast Asia, wreaking havoc on the state’s native vegetation. In no time, it spread over 100,000 acres, smothering trees and shrubs with its vines, which could grow up to an astonishing 90 feet.
To combat this invasive fern, scientists from the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) set out to find a solution. They discovered a promising candidate: the Brown lygodium moth, a species of fern-feeding snout moth, native to southeast Asia. These snout moths, belonging to the Crambidae family, proved to be effective deterrents to the invasive fern.
By studying the external wing patterns, genitalia, and wings of the snout moth, researchers identified it as a new species previously unknown to science. The research team compiled valuable information, allowing biological control workers worldwide to identify and distinguish Musotiminae species in their own regions.
With this knowledge, the snout moth was introduced to Florida, helping to slow down the spread of the Old World Climbing Fern. Further research continues, as scientists and their partners study the interactions of snout moths with parasites, predators, and fungi, working together to protect America’s native vegetation from this invasive threat.