Puriri moths – an extreme life cycle

Female Puriri moth
Female Puriri moth Aenetus virescens
Female Puriri moth Aenetus virescens

Pūriri moths (Aenetus virescens or pepe tuna) are New Zealand’s largest endemic flying moth. Larvae hatch on the bush floor and feed on fungi. Then they climb tree trunks such as pūriri (hence their name) and burrow into the trunk where they live for several years. Pūriri trees only have a northern distribution in the North Island. However, pūriri moths will instead use kohekohe trees to complete their life cycle.

Kohekohe tree trunk with holes caused by puriri moth larvae

In Redwood Bush, a large kohekohe trunk is perforated with holes caused by pūriri moth larvae. When moths emerge, the holes in the trunk are about a centimetre in diameter. Females have a wingspan up to 15cm, but have no mouthparts and cannot feed. They live for about 48 hours, mate, lay eggs and then die.

Article source and kohekohe photo: Gil Roper’s Feb 2022 Newsletter

Puriri moth photos: Phil Bendle CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 NZ

Published by Friends of Tawa Bush

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