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Meet the Cactus Moth, Racking Up those Frequent Traveler Miles


A cactus moth larva
A cactus moth larva (Photo by Stephen Hight, ARS)

Scientific Name: Cactoblasis cactorum

Common Name: Cactus moth

Friend or Pest (or both):  Both.

Region and Diet? United States, recently in Texas. Commonly found in gardens or roadsides wherever prickly pear grows.

Impact on agriculture? These caterpillars started as a “friend” because they controlled Opuntia spp. or prickly pear worldwide, but the species became an invasive “pest” when it was discovered in Florida and started to spread westward. It is important to keep track of this destructive species in the United States and conduct research to try to decrease its populations and slow its westward and southward movement.