Tips for Eradicating European Pepper Moths

While not the most common ornamental insect, the European pepper moth (Duponchelia fovealis) can cause significant plant damage as populations rise in the late summer, impacting a wide variety of crops, including herbaceous plants, annuals, perennials, woody ornamentals and poinsettias.

Originating in Europe, this lepidopteran insect has become more prevalent in the United States over the last eight years, appearing in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, along with Southeastern states, including Florida and Texas.

What to Look For

Unlike other lepidopteran insects like armyworms and loopers, the European pepper moth feeds primarily on plant stems at the soil line. They lay their eggs in the upper canopy of the plant, but after hatching the larvae drop to the soil and begin feeding on the base.

Moth larvae chew and bore their way into the base of the plant, which causes the plant to appear wilted and can be mistaken for a root issue. Unfortunately, if too much of the lower stem is damaged, the plant may die. You must scout the base of plants closely as the larvae are small and can be mistaken for fungus gnat larvae because they have a dark head capsule and are slightly bigger. The larvae will produce light webbing, which helps protect them from predators.

European pepper moth damage. Syngenta photo, Rechcigl.

European pepper moth larva. Syngenta photo, Rechcigl.

Add A Proven Layer of Control

European pepper moth damage can be destructive to the point that crops are unsalable if the insects are left unchecked. After proper scouting, begin control treatments as soon as insect presence is observed. Acelepryn® and Mainspring® GNL insecticides provide reliable, residual control of pepper moths at low use rates (2-4 fl. oz./100 gal.). Apply as a heavy spray or light drench over the top of plants so the base and stems are wet at the soil line.

A 2019 trial conducted by J.C. Chong, professor of entomology at Clemson University, evaluated the efficacy of Mainspring GNL and Acelepryn against pepper moths. The trial demonstrated that up to 42 days after application, plants treated with Mainspring GNL and Acelepryn did not have any foliar damage, whereas 33% of plants treated with water alone showed damage.   

Set yourself up for success against European pepper moths this season with proper scouting and control products including Acelepryn and Mainspring GNL.

All photos are either the property of Syngenta or are used with permission.

© 2023 Syngenta. Important: Always read and follow label instructions. Some products may not be registered for sale or use in all states or counties and/or may have state-specific use requirements. Please check with your local extension service to ensure registration and proper use. Acelepryn®, Mainspring® and the Syngenta logo are trademarks of a Syngenta Group Company.

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