Levuana iridescens   (Bethune-Baker)


 
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Iridescent Palm-Moth; Levuana Moth
(Levuana iridescens)

 
syn. -

 
distribution:

Fiji (?): Viti Levu

 
local name: -

 
size: (?)

extinction date: last seen in 1929

 
This, actually quite beautiful butterfly attracted attention for the first time in the year 1877 on the island of Viti Levu, when enormous numbers of these moths appeared on coconut palm plantations, which were used for copra production. The larvae fed on the palm leaves and thereby demolished the fronds in such a way that many of the palms died back completely.

To get a grip on the situation, a parasitic species of fly, (Bessa remota (Aldrich)), from Malaysia was released on the island in 1925, which within the shortest time reduced the numbers of the burnet moths in such a way, that just one year later almost no moth could be found. The whole campaign was such a 'success', that the Iridescent Palm-Moth was not just reduced, but extirpated completely, as the last specimen was found in the year 1929.

The flies, for their part, did not at all stop at this particular burnet moth species, but did also start to hunt successfully for other members of the burnet moth family. Thus, up to now at least one other endemic Fijian species, the Dark Palm-Moth (Heteropan dolens (Druce)), did follow the Iridescent Palm-Moth into extinction.

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It is still not fully resolved if this species occurred naturally in Fiji or not. Some lepidopterists think it may have been imported unintentionally to Fiji from somewhere in Australasia. Hence, some searches in several areas within this region were started, but none of them did find any trace of this moth species.

 
References:

- Mark S. Hoddle: Historical Review of Control Programs for Levuana iridescens (Lepidoptera: Zygaenidae) in Fiji and Examination of Possible Extinction of This Moth by Bessa remota (Diptera: Tachinidae). Pacific Science 60(4): 439-453. 2006