The Tale of the Yucca Plant and Yucca Moth
The yucca moth (Tegeticula spp.) and the yucca plant (Yucca spp.) cannot survive without the other. This symbiotic relationship has coevolved over millions of years.
Yucca moths nest underground near yucca plants. They stay in cocoons for up to three years. The moths emerge from their cocoons at the same time the yucca plant blooms.
In addition, the female moth will intentionally collect pollen from one yucca plant and place it on the stigma of another yucca plant. (The stigma
is the female part of a flower that collects the pollen to develop into fruit or seeds.) Most insects will not intentionally pollinate; the pollen sticks to their bodies and transfers to the next plant.
After pollinating the yucca plant, the female moth will lay an egg in the ovary of the yucca flower. The egg hatches and the larvae feed on the growing seeds. They don't consume all the seeds so that the plant will still have seeds to reproduce. The female moth also releases a pheromone so that other moths know that this yucca is taken and can't hold more eggs.
We thought a symbiotic pollinator relationship was the perfect highlight for our February newsletter!