Leaffolder Moths

Media
Photo of a leaffolder moth visiting a flower
Scientific Name
Desmia spp.
Family
Crambidae (crambid snout moths)
Description

Leaffolder moths (genus Desmia) are black with bold white markings. The body is slender and protrudes beyond the hindwings. Sometimes the moth curls its pointy abdomen tip upward.

Two common species are the grape leaffolder (Desmia funeralis) and grape leafroller (D. maculalis) — but to verify a species identification requires examination of the insect’s minute reproductive organs or mouthparts, or even its DNA.

The caterpillars are transparent green. They construct shelters by folding leaves of the food plant. They become extremely active when disturbed.

Common Name Synonyms
Leaf-Folders
Size
Wingspan: 1–1½ inches.
Where To Find
image of Leaf-Folder Moths Distribution Map
Statewide.
Found in forests and forest edges, as well as open areas near any of its food plants, including vineyards, parks, and suburban yards.
The caterpillars of some species feed on the leaves of grapes and Virginia creeper; they are also reported to feed on redbud and evening primrose. The larval foods of some species are unknown.
Breeding resident.
Life Cycle
Adults fly from April until late September, with two or more broods. Adults fly during the day but may also be attracted to lights at night. These moths overwinter as pupae, hidden within folded leaves.
As with most moths, it’s the caterpillars that are economically influential: As pests of vineyards, leaffolder moths have over the years caused considerable damage to Missouri’s grape crop, affecting our state’s $1.6 billion wine industry.

The caterpillars are herbivores that graze on vegetation. The adults may serve a role in pollination. All stages provide food for predators — although the caterpillars find protection within their leafy shelters.

The close resemblance to forester moths, which also fly by day but are in an unrelated family, suggests one or both may be mimics of each other or of, perhaps, of some kind of wasp.

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About Butterflies and Moths in Missouri
Butterflies, skippers, and moths belong to an insect order called the Lepidoptera — the "scale-winged" insects. These living jewels have tiny, overlapping scales that cover their wings like shingles. The scales, whether muted or colorful, seem dusty if they rub off on your fingers. Many butterflies and moths are associated with particular types of food plants, which their caterpillars must eat in order to survive.