Be on the lookout for the European Pepper Moth and other Lepidopteran pests

During the late summer we tend to see an increase in activity from lepidopteran pests, such as armyworms and loopers. The telltale signs of holes in the foliage and small pellets or remnants of frass are good indications you have activity in your crop. However, there is another lepidopteran pest you should be on the look out for-- the European pepper moth (Duponchelia fovealis). This lepidopteran pest can sneak into production areas and wreak havoc on herbaceous and woody ornamental plants. Moth activity has been reported in garden mums and other perennial crops, so careful scouting of your production areas is important. Unlike other lepidopteran pests, which feed primarily on plant foliage, Duponchelia larvae prefer to feed on plant stems at the soil line, so careful scouting of this area is particularly important.

Where and What to Look For​​​​​​​

European pepper moths 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 of the plant. The larvae are small, with a dark head capsule and prefer to hide in the moist leaf litter on the soil surface. At first glance, you might mistake its identity as fungus larvae. The larvae chew and bore their way into the base of the plant, causing plants to appear wilted.  Extensive feeding can cause plants to collapse and die. The European pepper moth has a broad host range and is known to cause damage to: 
  • Herbaceous and woody ornamentals
  • Poinsettias 
  • Annuals and perennials​​​​​​​

Like many insect pests, careful scouting and monitoring for adult activity is recommended. Look for:​​​​​​​
  • Wilted plants
  • Loose webbing at the soil line
  • Girdling of the lower stem
  • Stem rotting due to feeding injury 
Controlling the Pepper Moth

These pests can be destructive if left unchecked, so it is important to begin control treatments as soon as indications of their presence are noticed. Mainspring® GNL and Acelepryn® insecticides are two effective options that provide long residual control of lepidopteran pests at low use rates (2-4 fl oz/100 gal). To control the European pepper moth, apply Mainspring GNL or Acelepryn as a light drench or heavy spray over the top of the plant, ensuring the base of the plant and stem are thoroughly wet to the soil surface. 

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