We examined the association between the exotic South American cactus moth, Cactoblastis cactorum (Berg) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae), and its host plants (prickly pear cacti, subfamily Opuntioideae) in Florida to assess the role of host plant identity and local host community on the prevalence of this invasive moth. From May to September 2008, we surveyed 4,243 plants across 165 sites throughout Florida for C. cactorum. The probability of C. cactorum presence at a particular site was best explained by the presence of either Opuntia humifusa var. ammophila (Small) L. D. Benson or O. stricta (Haworth) Haworth. Within infested sites, only O. stricta individuals were significantly more infested than other host plants. Our results suggest that understanding patterns of C. cactorum infestation, both in Florida and as it spreads towards the western United States relies, at least in part, on determining the mechanism by which O. stricta influences the suitability of specific host communities.
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Vol. 95 • No. 3