Centennial Museum gecko logo

Desert Diary

Arthropods/Yucca Night Life


This page was designed with CSS, and looks best in a CSS-aware browser--which, unfortunately, yours is not. However, the document should still be readable, though not presented in the most sophisticated manner.

Mating accomplished on a late May night, the silver-white female moth kneads yucca pollen into a ball about the size of her head. For a week, she carries it from flower to flower, stopping only to lay her eggs by inserting the needle-sharp tip at the end of her body into the base of the pistil. She carefully fertilizes the flower from her burden of pollen and moves on. Then the plant takes over, and from each tiny pollen grain, a tube starts growing toward an ovule in the chamber where the eggs will hatch. The ovules become seeds, the only food the young will eat.

By July, the full-grown larvae bore through their seed-pod caves and lower themselves by silken-thread ladders to the ground, where they weave sticky cocoons that harden like lumps of dirt. Then the long wait for spring rain and the white blooms of the yucca plant especially made for the nightlife of the yucca moth. Once again, the cycle begins—the yucca moth and the yucca plant—through summer, fall, winter, and spring! pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Florence E. Schwein, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.