A few years back I discovered my pumpkin vine was looking a little ragged.
The leaves have been eaten to skeletons and the new shoots have been munched by hungry mouths.
It took a while to find the culprit but I chanced on a small and rather wonderful critter that may be responsible.
Diaphania indica or the Cucumber Moth is a little moth native to southern Asia but it's become a very widespread species and now occurs in many tropical and subtropical regions around the world.
It is occasionally a significant pest of cucurbit crops like cucumbers and pumpkins.
The young caterpillars of Cucumber Moths eat skeletonized leaves and chlorophyll, or the stuff that makes leaves green.
Older caterpillars will often fold the leaves that they are feeding on and stitch them together, making a safe haven made of their dinner.
Young and old caterpillars of this annoying little moth are known for their love of feasting on flowers, new shoots and fruits of cucumbers, and have obviously been making free with my pumpkin vine as well.
The colours of the Cucumber Moth are not designed to make it stand out in a crowd. Although the slight fringe along the trailing edge of the wing is attractive, the dull greys and browns lend more to the purposes of concealment, rather than decoration.
This is great, as it keeps a small and relatively defenseless critter safe from predators, but it could make it difficult to find a mate in a large and potentially dangerous world.
It's not that easy being beige but the ever resourceful and well adapted Cucumber Moth has this problem sorted.
If you look at the Cucumber Moth in the photo, you will see that it appears to have a pom-pom attached to its rear end.
This equipment tells us a couple of things about my pumpkin eating buddy.
The first is that it is possibly a female as male moths apparently tend to have smaller and slightly less extravagant pom-poms.
The second is that she was actively seeking a mate as she was waving her pom-pom around in the air, spreading chemical messages called pheromones that unbeknownst to me were drifting out across the night, calling to all available male Cucumber Moths.
Birds use bright feathers, fish flashing scales and people paint their faces and head to the nearest pub. None of these things have quite the pizazz of a cheerleading moth with a pom-pom decorated butt.