En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - June 11, 2010

From: Wilmington, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Pollinators, Pests, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Flying insects attacking yucca flacida in Wilmington NC
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

How do I treat flying insects from eating the flowers on my Yucca Flaccida shrub.

ANSWER:

Instead of being visited by damaging flying insects on your Yucca flaccida (weak-leaf yucca), we believe the flowers are being pollinated by the yucca moth partnered by genetics with that precise yucca plant. Here is a very good article from the  USDA Forest Service on Yucca moths. According to this article, at some point in the history of the moth-yucca co-dependence, the moth may have actually been feeding on the blooms.

When you see flying insects around your yucca, they are most likely females selecting a place to deposit their eggs, which is in the seed pod. She collects pollen and then pollinates the flower. When the larvae hatch, they feed on the seeds in the fruit. The mature yucca moth eats nothing, because they have only a few days to live. Please don't spray any pesticides around that yucca, because you will interrupt a very important process in your yucca. After the blooms have all gone and the fruit has dried, the fruit will open and the seeds will be ready to move to a place to grow a new plant.

Working  at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on cleaning Texas native plant seeds to send to the Millennium Seed Bank, we have cleaned the dried fruits of yuccas to obtain seeds for the Seed Bank. Many of these seeds had little round holes in them, rendering them sterile, of course. This was the results of the larvae feeding; in fact, we sometimes chanced on a larva that had not yet left the nest. The yucca has adjusted to not allow all its seeds to be eaten by producing a LOT of seeds. Here are some pictures of the yucca moth.

Pictures of the yucca moth from Google 

Pictures of Yucca flaccida (weak-leaf yucca) from Google

 

More Pollinators Questions

Failure of tall garden phlox buds to open in St. Louis MO
July 30, 2009 - Why won't the buds of my tall garden phlox open? Plants are apparently healthy, no powdery mildew or visible insects, foliage looks great and buds are profuse but they don't open. I have two clumps ...
view the full question and answer

Alternative for Pittosporum limelight
March 22, 2012 - Is it ok to plant a Pittosporum limelight by pool? Don't want bees! Needs to be 6 feet. Thanks.
view the full question and answer

Pollinating Pawpaws
February 06, 2013 - We have many good sized pawpaw trees in our area but they never bear any fruit. I've checked them at different times in the fall over the years but no fruit. Someone told me that the flowers were po...
view the full question and answer

Failure of hybridized red hollies to grow
April 17, 2008 - I have 2 red hollies planted in my yard about 20' apart, 3 years now. They won't grow. Do I need to have a male with them?
view the full question and answer

Restoring the woods in Central Austin.
May 08, 2012 - I live in Austin, south central between Red Bud trail close to the low water bridge and Bee Caves road. My question: I want to make the wooded sections of my yard attractive. They have filtered sun...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center