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Leafrollers, the larvae of certain tortricid moths, often feed and pupate within the protection of rolled-up leaves. Several species can cause problems on fruit and ornamental trees.
The fruittree leafroller, Archips argyrospila, is the most common leafroller pest in landscapes throughout the state. It occurs on many ornamental treesâ€”including ash, birch, California buckeye, box elder, elm, locust, maple, poplar, rose, and willowâ€”and is particularly damaging to deciduous and live oaks. It also attacks numerous fruit and nut trees including almond, apple, apricot, caneberries, cherry, citrus, pear, plum, prune, quince, and walnut.
Other leafrollers include the obliquebanded leafroller, Choristoneura rosaceana, and the omnivorous leafroller, Platynota stultana,the light brown apple moth (LBAM), Epiphyas postvittana, which are serious problems on fruit trees. The orange tortrix, Argyrotaenia franciscana, and apple pandemis, Pandemis pyrusana, are pests that occur throughout the year primarily on fruit trees and vines in coastal areas of California.
Damage and management for all species is similar.
LIFE CYCLE: The fruittree leafroller overwinters as eggs laid on branches or twigs. Eggs hatch into tiny larvae from March to as late as mid-May in cooler areas. Larvae feed on leaves for about 30 days then pupate in a loose cocoon, which they form in a rolled leaf or similar shelter. Eight to 11 days later the adult emerges from the pupa. The moths live only about a week, during which time they mate and lay eggs. They fly from May to June, depending on locality, and in any one area the flight usually lasts about three weeks. These moths lay eggs on twigs and branches, and the eggs will remain there until they hatch the next spring.
Omnivorous, obliquebanded, light brown apple moth, and most other problem leafrollers overwinter primarily as larvae in protected places in trees. They pupate in spring, emerge as adults, and sometimes lay their first eggs on weeds. The second generation of these leafrollers, which occurs in June or July, is more likely to occur on trees, causing damage later in the season than the fruittree leafroller.
DAMAGE:Leafroller larvae feed on tender, new leaves, giving them a ragged appearance; they also roll and tie leaves together with silken threads to form compact hiding places. In severe cases larvae can partially or completely defoliate trees, and their numerous silken threads can cover the entire tree and the ground below. Also, larvae frequently drop to the ground on their silken threads and can defoliate other plants beneath the trees. However, even completely defoliated trees can recover if they are otherwise healthy, with the exception of newly planted and first-leaf trees.
Oaks in the Central Valley can be particularly hard hit by the fruittree leafroller. oakworm is a more serious pest in coastal areas, while the fruittree leafroller does the bulk of its defoliation damage to oaks in the Central Valley.
The larvae of all leafroller species also attack fruit on trees, and young fruit might fall because of deep feeding grooves larvae make just after the fruit has formed. Less severely damaged fruit remain on the tree and develop characteristically deep, bronze-colored scars with roughened, netlike surfaces that are mostly cosmetic, although the fruit can become deformed. They do not enter the fruit as do codling moth or Oriental fruit moth.
Biological Control: A number of insects eat leafrollers including certain tachinid flies and ichneumonid wasps, which parasitize the larvae. After consuming the leafroller larvae, the braconid wasp forms a white cocoon next to the shriveled up worm inside its nest. A white cocoon is an indication that the parasite is present and might provide control. Lacewing larvae, assassin bugs, and certain beetles also are common predators. Birds sometimes feed on the larvae and pupae, although they usually prefer other insects. These natural enemies often help to keep leafrollers at low, nondamaging levels, but even if natural enemies are present, large outbreaks of leafrollers occasionally occur.
Chemical Control: Sprays for leafrollers seldom are necessary. Apply them only when there is evidence of a damaging leafroller population, such as large numbers of larvae early in the spring or large numbers of egg masses. Because the fruittree leafrollerâ€”the most common leafroller attacking oak and other ornamentalsâ€”has only one generation a year, by the time trees are severely defoliated, the caterpillar stage might be almost completed, and sprays will be of no benefit. Also, a single defoliation, unless the tree is very small, will not kill the tree. Insecticidal oil sprays applied in dormancy for scales and other insects will help control leafroller eggs on fruit trees.
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