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European Pepper Moth

European Pepper Moth belongs to the family Crambidae. Crambids are known as grass moths or close wing moths. Older literature classifies this pest under the family Pyralidae. Some sources also refer to EPM as southern European marshland pyralid. Peppered moth, Biston betularia from Europe is not related to this species. It can be confusing when the name European peppered moth also appears in some sources, but verifying the scientific name helps confirm the identity

European Pepper Moth

European Pepper Moth

Forewing colored gray or grayish-brown with white or yellowish-white transverse lines. Second line on forewing with a distinctive finger-like projection. Forewing 9 to 4 in. length 11 mm. Long antennae, usually folded back. Abdomen long, slender, usually upturned. Body length 9 to 12 mm.

One ground beetle species, is unusual because it has a wide, flat head and prothorax and a narrow, articulated “waist” between the prothorax and abdomen. This species superficially resembles a male stag beetle. However, stag beetles have a clubbed antennae, lack the narrow waist and they have smooth wing covers elytra. The seedcorn beetle, is a smaller 1/3 inch long dark brown, striped species that occasionally feeds on corn seeds and seedlings.

Life Cycle: The adults are good flyers and live from 1-2 weeks. In it’s native range adults are present from April to October. During her life a female will lay about 200 eggs. The eggs are laid singly or in groups of 3-10 overlapping in a tile-like fashion.

The eggs may be found almost anywhere on the plant but most commonly they are located on the underside of leaves close to the veins; low down on plant stocks; at the base of the host plant or in the upper layer of the soil. In greenhouses hatching occurs 8-10 days after the eggs are laid. The emerging larvae are polyphagous and will feed on leaves, flowers, buds and leaf/plant debris.

European Pepper Moth Larva

European Pepper Moth Larva

They will also bore into the plant stems. The larvae develop quickly, are very agile, and show a preference for the damp moist conditions that exist lower down in the crop near the soil surface. Under greenhouse condition the larvae reach maturity within four weeks of hatching. When fully mature the larvae will form a cocoon constructed of silk mixed with either frass or dirt. Pupation takes about 1-2 weeks under glasshouse conditions and occurs within the cocoon.

Eggs are small 0.5 to 0.7mm, whitish-green in colour turning bright red as the young larva develops. The larva can be seen through the eggshell prior to hatching. Larvae are creamy white to brown in colour having a dark head capsule and dark spots on the body. They measure about 20-30 mm at maturity. Cocoons are 15-19 mm long oval in shape and constructed with silk, frass or soil particles. Pupae are light brown and about 9-10 mm long. Adult forwings are grey in colour with a darker centre and two yellowishwhite transverse lines, the outer line has an outward-directed tooth-like notch. The wingspan is 19-21 mm. Males have a longer slender abdomen.

Damage: : EPM larvae feed on roots, stems, foliage, inflorescences and fruits. They can also feed on the organic matter in the soil. Although they have a preference for feeding at the plant base, damage can be inflicted higher in the plant. Sometimes, larvae emerging from the eggs laid on the top of the foliage can burrow their way down through the stem. Damage ranges from holes in the foliage, wilting, defoliation, girdling of the stem to stem collapse. Damaged areas are also exposed to fungal diseases like Botrytis. Larvae prefer moist conditions and hide under the foliage that is in contact with soil, just below the soil line or in the tunnels formed by spinning the leaves together. In potted plants where the foliage is not in contact with the soil, larvae can be found in webbing near the edges of the pots.

European Pepper Moth

European Pepper Moth

Controls: Sanitation to remove debris and infestation sites like lower leaves in contact with the soil and use of drier potting medium appear to help reduce the infestation. Biological control with Bacillus thuringiensis, predatory mites, predatory beetle, parasitoid wasps, and entomopathogenic nematodes are reported to be effective. Chemical control can be difficult with contact insecticides as the larvae hide in protected areas. However, control with acephate, azadirachtin, chlorpyrifos, emamectin, imidacloprid, pyrethrins, and spinosad was found to be effective in areas where they are registered to be used.

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