London: A new species of moth has invaded vineyards across northern Italy, say scientists.
A team in Italy and Erik van Nieukerken at Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity in Leiden have examined a snippet of the moth's genetic code to confirm that it is a previously unnamed species discovered in 2006.
The new species, which now bears the name Antispila oinophylla, had previously been confused with a North American species which feeds on Virginia creeper.
Only the genetic studies revealed it to be a different species with a taste for grapevines. Its native range is across eastern North America, where it feeds on severalspecies of wild grapes.
So far, the species has been found in vineyards in Italy's Trento and Veneto regions, spreading and increasing in population since it was first recorded, the 'BBC' reported.
The researchers do not know exactly how the moth arrived in Italy, but Dr van Nieukerken said that it was very easy for the cocoons containing the larvae to be accidentally transported with plant material.
"They're very small and exactly the same colour as the leaves. So if you were carrying plants, you would probably not notice them," he said. The findings are published in 'ZooKeys' journal.
First Published: Friday, February 24, 2012, 21:44