Epiphyas postvittana

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*Vennette, R.C., E.E. Davis, M. DaCosta, H. Heisler, and M. Larson. 2003. Mini Risk Assessment Light Brown Apple Moth, Epiphyas postvittana (Walker) Lepidoptera:Tortricidae. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/pest_detection/downloads/pra/epostvittanapra.pdf   
*Vennette, R.C., E.E. Davis, M. DaCosta, H. Heisler, and M. Larson. 2003. Mini Risk Assessment Light Brown Apple Moth, Epiphyas postvittana (Walker) Lepidoptera:Tortricidae. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/pest_detection/downloads/pra/epostvittanapra.pdf   

Revision as of 12:37, 11 March 2010

Authors: Espinosa, A. and A.C. Hodges University of Florida

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Hexapoda (including Insecta)
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Tortricidae
Genus: Epiphyas
Species: postvittana
Scientific Name
Epiphyas postvittana
Common Names

light brown apple moth



Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM), a native of Australia, was detected in California in 2007. Since its arrival, LBAM has been under an eradication program to prevent pest establishment and further dispersal. Currently, LBAM has been found from Los Angeles to north of San Francisco, in the following counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Solano.


LBAM has a very wide host range; it can feed on over 1000 plant species of which over 250 are fruits and vegetables. It feeds on almost all types of fruit crops, vegetables, ornamentals, and it has been seen feeding on young pine trees among other trees.

The following are some of the fruit crops, vegetables, ornamentals and trees that might be affected by LBAM:

  • Fruit Crops:
    • Citrus, grapes, kiwifruit, apples, blueberry, pear, strawberry, raspberry, mango, avocado, persimmon, plantain and various stone and pome fruits such as apricot, plum and peach
  • Vegetables:
    • Cabbage, corn, peppers and tomatoes
  • Ornamentals:
    • Roses, chrysanthemums, dahlia, gerbera, ivy, jasmine, camellia, salvia, viburnum and vinca
  • Trees:
    • Oak, willow, poplar, walnut, cottonwood, alder, eucalyptus and conifers

Description of Damage:

The larval stage is the only stage that causes damage. Larvae may feed on leaves, young seedlings and fruit. Younger larvae construct silken, protective webs for feeding on the undersurface of the leaves. Larger larvae migrate and form leaf rolls in search of feeding niches in the following areas: between two leaves; a fruit and a leaf; a developing bud; or a single leaf. Later instars feed on everything except main veins.

Superficial fruit damage is common, and larvae feeding within a webbed leaf attached to a fruit may be visible. Injured fruit produces a layer of corky tissue over the feeding damage. Internal fruit damage is not common, but occasionally occurs in stone fruits, where young larvae may enter through the calyx. In grapes, secondary mold infestations may occur as a result of larval feeding. In Australia, premature fruit drop has been reported in citrus.

In general, LBAM destroys and/or deforms young seedlings, injures fruit tree crops, and damages the appearance of ornamental hosts. During severe outbreaks, fruit damage can be as high as 85%. So far in California, LBAM has been found in:

  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Prunus spp. (plums, cherries, peaches, apricots, almonds)
  • California wax myrtle

Identification Characteristics:

LBAM may be easily confused with other small yellow to dark brown moths. Some variation in moth size may occur, with larger individuals present during the cool and wet months. Here are some general characteristics:

  • Wing measurements are between 6 and 13 mm long, with the wingspan of females slightly larger than males.
  • Body color is yellowish-brown to dark brown.
  • Hind wings are mottled and pale brown to gray.
  • Male forewings have a light brown area at the base of the wing, and a darker red-brown area at the tip.
  • Female forewings are uniformly light brown, with slightly darker markings at the tip.

As LBAM may be easily confused with other species, if you see a moth that meets the above criteria, you should not assume you have detected LBAM. However, if you are experiencing unusual pest outbreaks and notice moths or larvae similar to LBAM, you may have detected a suspect specimen. Contact your local NPDN diagnostic lab or state department of agriculture if you are concerned about a potential LBAM specimen.

Life History:

Eggs are white to light green and are laid slightly overlapping each other. Egg masses contain 2 to 170 eggs and are laid on leaves, young stems or fruit. As eggs mature they turn paler yellow-green. It takes an egg between 5 and more than 30 days to hatch depending on temperature.

In warmer climates, generations tend to overlap and there might be up to four or five generations per year. In cold climates there are usually two generations per year. LBAM has 5 to 6 larval instars, and development to adulthood typically occurs within 3 and 8 weeks given favorable conditions. Cold temperatures slow larval development and usually overwintering occurs between 2nd and 4th larval instars. Larval instars range in size from 1.5 to 18 mm. First instar larvae measure about 1.5-2 mm in length and have dark brown heads, the other instars have a light brown head and a greenish-brown region behind the head with no markings. Mature larvae measure between 10 and 18 mm in length. The body of mature larvae is green with a darker green central stripe and two side stripes. The body hairs are whitish. Larvae while overwintering turn darker. They pupate in a thin-walled silken cocoon webbed between two leaves. The pupa measures between 10 and 15 mm in length and will turn from green to brown as it matures. The pupal stage will last between 3 and 8 weeks depending on temperature.

Adults mate soon after emergence, and are nocturnal. Females begin to lay eggs, 2 or 3 days after emergence, and continue to lay eggs for about 21 days. A female usually lays between 120 and 500 eggs, but is capable of producing up to 1500 eggs. The life span of an adult LBAM is between 2 and 3 weeks, depending on temperature and host plant availability.

Major flight periods occur during September-October, December-January, February-March, and April-May. Females release sex pheromones to attract males. LBAM cannot fly long distances; most moths do not fly more than 100 meters although there are some that may fly up to 600 meters; males disperse farther than females. Dispersal is most likely to occur by the accidental movement of infested stock plant material than by flight.

Regulatory Status and Control Information:

Within the continental U.S., LBAM has only been detected in California. The detection of LBAM in California in 2007 has resulted in an eradication program that has included aerial synthetic pheromone sprays, over urban and suburban areas; the use of pesticides oils, spinosyns, insect growth regulators and Bacillus thuringiensis (BT). Regulatory agencies are utilizing pheromone-based traps to attract male LBAM. Aerial sprays were implemented due to the fact that over 500,000 acres were determined to be infested. The USDA obtained the Emergency Exemption from Registration from U.S. Environmental Protection Act (EPA) on the use of pesticides, which in this case was application of the synthetic pheromone aerially. In June 2008, California abandoned their plans for aerial spraying over populated areas and promoted the use of pheromone impregnated twist ties, which has been effective in New Zealand. In 2009 they plan to release sterile male moths to cause populations to collapse.

As LBAM has only been detected in California, it is considered to be of limited distribution. Regulatory agencies are utilizing pheromone-based traps to survey for LBAM. Detection of LBAM will potentially result in state and/or federal regulatory action, as this pest is considered to be of high-risk concern to major agricultural commodities as well as possibly some native hosts. Regulatory-based questions concerning LBAM should be directed to your state department of agriculture.

Image Gallery:


  • Johnson, M.W., C. Pickel, L.L. Strand, L.G. Varela, C.A. Wilen, M.P. Bolda, M.L. Flint, W.K.F. Lam, and F.G. Zalom. 2007. Light Brown Apple Moth in California: Quarantine, Management and Potential Impacts. University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. Found at: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/EXOTIC/lightbrownapplemoth.html

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