Unlike many animals, the grape leaffolder moth (Desimia funeralis) has a name that clearly relates to the critter. The caterpillars of this moth commonly live on grape leaves. In addition, they do fold grape leaves.
The grape leaffolder lives in all of Georgia’s 159 counties. This moth flies during the daylight hours but you can also see it at night. Your best chance of seeing one is to spot one clinging to the outside wall of your home below a security light.
Sometimes one will even show up inside your home. Such was the case with the moth depicted in the accompanying photo. My granddaughter recently found it on the wall of the hallway outside her bedroom. As she does each time she finds a plant or animal she is unfamiliar with, she sent me a picture of her discovery in hopes that I could identify it.
THE GRAPE LEAFFOLDER; PHOTO CREDIT: Anna Leverett
Fortunately, the insect’s distinctive white blotches and black wings make it one it one of our most recognizable moths. Consequently, I was able to identify it without any trouble.
In addition to grapes, the grape leaffolder moth also uses redbud and evening primrose as host plants. However, when it lays its eggs on grape leaves it can sometime become a pest. For example, in states such as Oregon and California, grape leaffolders are pests that feed on grape leaves.
Grape leaffolder caterpillars fold the edge the grape leaf that are feeding on over to create a safe haven from predators. Once folded, the leaf forms a tunnel where the caterpillar can safely feed throughout the day. When the caterpillar has consumed as much as it wants within its safe haven, under the cloak of darkness, it moves on to another leaf and repeats the process. A large number of caterpillars feeding on the same vine can weaken the plant to the point where it is likely to produce fewer grapes the next year.
Eventually, the leaves begin to dry out. When this occurs the caterpillar folds over the edges of the leaf on which it was living. Eventually the leaf housing the caterpillar falls to the ground. There the caterpillar pupates in preparation for winter. At the end winter, it emerges as an adult.
If you happen across a grape leaffolder, I hope you take the time to examine it. It is truly a handsome insect. It demonstrates it is possible to find a vast array of amazing animals without having to leave your own backyards.