DANGER FROM MICRO MOTHS
Of the collected specimens, 50 are authentically identified. This work is a part of the All India Co-ordinated Project on Taxonomy (AICOPTAX) Research on Microlepidoptera, initiated by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Dr H. S. Rose of Punjab University, Patiala, an eminent lepidopterists, is the Co-ordinator and Chief Principal Investigator.
For the smooth operation of the project, five zones have been set up in the country and Dr Grewal heads the NE region zone. On March 1, 2000, the project started its operation and it will continue till March 31, 2004. The project is aimed at capacity building in taxonomy and it envisages establishment of centres for research in identified priority gap areas — as for example, virus, bacteria, microlepidoptera in the field of taxonomy, education and training and strengthening the organisations like the Zoological Survey of India as the co-ordinating units.
The tasks assigned to the coordinators and collaborators under the project are survey, collection, identification, preservation, maintenance of the collections and taxonomic databanks, development of the identification manuals and also imparting training to college teachers, students and local communities in parataxonomy. Grewal and her team colleagues Sarfaraj Newaj and Diganta Sarma, both junior research fellows, have also collected detailed information about the distribution of various microlepidoptera species in the region, like the host plants, place of availability, physical condition of the region, — including climatic and topographical condition etc, through regular intensive and extensive survey-cum-collection trips to various areas, Grewal said.
Her team has surveyed most of the region, including Sikkim and North Bengal, during the pre and post-monsoon season for the last three years. The species of micro-moths are quite large in number compared to the butterfly species. In India, there are little more than 1,500 species of butterfly, whereas the number of species of micro-moths is 200 times ore than the butterflies. But, till date, only about two per cent of the micro-moth species in the country has been studied and identified, she said.
On the significance of the study, she said that the study would finally help the forest departments in evolving plant protection measures. For, she explained, most of the young ones of micro-moths feed on the internal tissues of the plants and make tunnels in the tissues of the leaves, stems, roots and fruits etc and thus act as destructive agents to plants.
Cnophalocrocis medanalis, one of the most destructive insects for paddy plants, also belong to the micro-moth species. This insect folds the leaves of paddy plants around their bodies and feed on the chlorophyll of the epidermal cells of the leaves.