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Melitara Walker

Thomas J. Simonsen, Richard L. Brown and Sangmi Lee
Mississippi Entomological Museum
Mississippi State University

Last updated:  Dec.15, 2009

Taxonomic Synonymy
Melitara Walker, 1863, List Spec. Lepid. Insec. Coll. Brit. Mus, 27: 136
Type species: Melitara prodenialis Walker, 1863. By monotypy.

Megaphycis Grote, 1882, Can. Ent., 14: 30.
Type species: Zophodia bollii Zeller, 1872.

Olycella Dyar, 1928, Proc. Ent. Soc. Wash., 30: 134.
Type species: Melitara junctolineella Hulst, 1900.

Diagnostic Characters
Melitara is most similar to Alberada and Olyca, but differs from other cactus-feeding genera by the following combination of characters: 1) antenna of both sexes bipectinate (male antenna more strongly bipectinate than other cactus-feeders), 2) Hind wing veins M2+3 and CuA1 separated at base, not sharing a common stem (Heinrich 1939, 1956; Neunzig 1997; Simonsen 2008). Melitara is one of the largest genera of cactus-feeders, and adults can only be confused with Alberada in North America. The latter, however, has more conspicuous markings on the forewing, and M2+3 and CuA1­­ share a common stem.

According to Heinrich (1939) and Neunzig (1997) the larvae are blue or whitish with cross bands.

Larval Hosts
Stem feeders in Opuntia s.s. (Heinrich 1939; Mann 1969; Neunzig 1997).

Life History
Eggs laid in long sticks. Larvae are gregarious feeders in early instars but may feed in smaller groups or singly later (Heinrich 1939; Mann 1969; Neunzig 1997).

The genus occurs in south western Canada, throughout most of the USA, and in Mexico. The distribution in Mexico is poorly known (Heinrich 1939, 1956; Neunzig 1997; Simonsen et al. 2009).

Taxonomic Note
Neunzig (1997) included the genus Olycella Dyar with three species in Melitara based on similarities in the genitalia of both sexes, and the bipectinate antenna found in the females of both genera. Simonsen (2008) agreed with this based on his phylogenetic analysis that demonstrated that the two subgroups form a monophyletic unit. The inclusion of Olycella in Melitara is accepted here despite differences in the overall appearance and female genitalia of the two subgroups: the three species formerly included in Olycella have uniform grey forewings with a single elaborate discal spot, and the females have small, plate-like signum in the corpus bursae; the species in Melitara s.s. have grey forewings with a diffuse, dark zigzag pattern, and the female genitalia lack a signum (Neunzig 1997, Simonsen 2008, Simonsen et al. 2009).


         Male genitalia
         Female genitalia