New moth invades Italy's vineyards
A moth with a taste for Chardonnay leaves, which has infested vineyards across northern Italy, is a new species of leafminer, scientists say.
The pest was first discovered by Italian scientists in 2006, but they were unable to identify it.
Now, by examining a snippet of the moth's genetic code, researchers have confirmed that it is a previously unnamed species.
The team published their findings in the journal ZooKeys.
The Italian team enlisted the help of insect expert Erik van Nieukerken from the Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity in Leiden.
"We first turned to the [scientific] literature to find out what was already known, which was appallingly little for this group [of moths]," Dr van Nieukerken told BBC Nature.
He and his colleagues used a method known as DNA barcoding to examine a section of the insect's genetic code.
"I figured out that this one, despite being quite common in North America, had no name," he recalled.
The new species, which now bears the name Antispila oinophylla, had previously been confused with a North American species (Antispila ampelopsifoliella), 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 several species 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.