Lev Bely, 10.07.2012 16:28
Supposedly, the smallest moth in the world is now at Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis. The other day senior museum scientist Steve Heydon was sorting insects collected during his expedition to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006, and he suddenly spotted a tiny moth of about 1mm length just as the dot size at the end of this paragraph.
Heydon says that this species is new, yet to be described. “We don’t even know what genus it is. We are guessing it is a Nepticulidae since this family contains the smallest moths. Their caterpillars are leafminers — they actually live between the top and bottom layers of a leaf, eating out the middle.”
“It has a wing span of 2 to 2.5mm,” Heydon said. “Insects that have a wing span of 3mm are considered tiny, but this one is really tiny — the smallest moth anyone ever seems to have found.” Heydon has been working in the museum since 1990 and handled with lots of wasps, flies, beetles and other insects of similar size, but never he met such a tiny moth.
Steve Heydon discovered the moth in April 2006 during the expedition to the village of Kikongo Mission, about 45 minutes by air eastward from Kinshasa, the capital of the Congo. He found it in the forest near a river in a Malaise trap, the kind of a micromesh “tent”, commonly used for catching wasps and flies.
“I’ve been sorting and mounting the specimens ever since (April 2006) and I’m almost finished,” Heydon said this week. So at the end of this work one of the specimens having inspected under microscope appeared to be “the world's smallest moth”. Along with it there were two more moths of the same species. “So I actually have three specimens of that moth.”
“I don’t know how he could have even seen that,” wondered Andrew Richards, Bohart Museum junior specialist, who took photos of the moth.
Moth expert Jerry Powell, emeritus professor at UC Berkeley and director emeritus of the Essig Museum of Entomology, supposes that it could belong to Stigmella genus, Nepticulidae family.
The African expedition was arranged not only for collecting insects which nonetheless enlarged the museum collection with 30000 specimens, but also conservation and educational purposes.
Moths which comprise estimately about 160000 species (what's 10 times more than butterflies) seem to beat butterflies once again, this time on the matter of size.
As for naming, this weeshy thing yet has no any, but is awaited to be named by some lepidopterist who will make its description, Heydon says. “We’re waiting for somebody to be interested in this tiny moth. Anyone willing to describe it can name it.”
Bohart Museum of Entomology directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, owns a vast insect collection of over 7 million specimens, the seventh largest collection in North America. The museum also carries the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. Bohart Museum of Entomology was founded in 1946 by remarkable entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913—2007).
The museum is open Monday—Thursday, 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Free entrance.
UC Davis, http://entomology.ucdavis.edu
Photo: the smallest moth found in African forest, Andrew Richards, http://entomology.ucdavis.edu
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