Recent observations on the entry of trees by larvae of the puriri moth, Aenetus virescens (Lepidoptera: Hepialidae)
Development of Aenetus virescens larvae involves two distinct feeding stages – mycophagy (fungal feeding) and phytophagy (plant feeding). The mycophagous stage occurs on the forest floor where larvae graze the fruiting bodies of polypore fungi, usually those that grow as encrustations on the underside of logs or other dead wood. After about 2-3 months the larvae then migrate to host trees where they bore into stems or branches and graze on callus tissue at the tunnel entrance for the next 1-4 years or more. These ‘tree phase’ larvae complete development in at least 17 New Zealand native and two exotic angiosperm species. Larval growth and survival has been the subject of recent ecological investigations.