Undetermined Lepidoptera - 2 spp.
Undet. genus and spp. #1 & #2
Size: Not measured
Group Guild Status
Unknown Unknown Rare
The initial study reported three observations of moths in the cave, but did not state whether they represented more than one species. Two were recorded near the Entrance Sink and one in Granite Dells. During the recent study we have observed two species of small moths in the cave on a few occasions. Our observations of adult moths represent two species, neither of which were sampled or identified. One individual was found dead near one of the tour lights by an invertebrate station just inside the Tarantula Tunnel on May 7, 2011 (Undet. genus and sp. #1). This animal was totally disarticulated, and was a species in some family of micro-lepidoptera. A couple of other small moths, possibly the same species, have rarely been found drowned in the EMS evaporation pans at various locations in the cave (also in too poor condition to allow identification). The tineid larva in the previous account is a different species since the larva is far too large for the more common small moth that we have seen as adults.
A second small moth was observed flying in the Big Room on September 24, 2011 (Undet. genus and sp. #2), and could not be captured. This second animal was considerably larger, with broader wings, and with a wingspan of approximately 1.5 cm, but still a rather small species. In summer and through the fall there are many moths, primarily of a single species, that congregate at the outside alcove of the Tarantula Tunnel entrance. The larger moth we observed flying in the cave may be an accidental that came in on a visitor or of its own accord through the Tarantula Tunnel access.
We have no evidence to support the presence of a guano moth associated with the bat guano deposits in the cave. If there is a guano moth (probably a tineid) that occurs in the cave it must be a minor element of the ecology since we have observed very few small moths. Tineid populations associated with bat guano deposits in caves are typically present in larger numbers. In those situations they are usually readily evident in the vicinity of the major guano deposits, and this is not the case in Kartchner Caverns. Additional observations and sampling are required to determine if moths that occur in the cave are accidentals or active elements of the ecology of the cave.
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