Tobacco moth (Ephestia elutella)

Type of pest: Secondary pest.

The tobacco moth, cacao moth or warehouse moth (Ephestia elutella) is a small moth of the Pyralidae family. A subspecies is E. e. pterogrisella.

Distribution: Worldwide, intolerant of hot conditions. Originated in temperate regions in the northern hemisphere, but has been transported widely, even to Australia.

Identification: Adult labial palps are short and curved upwards. The forewing (7 – 14 mm) is gray with darker markings. Ephestia kuehniella is larger and is more clearly marked. Larvae are 15 – 20 mm, white to pink with black spots (base of hairs), with the rim of the abdominal spiracles evenly thickened.

Similar species: Hofmannophila, Corcyra; distinction from Cadra is only reliable by examination of genitalia.

Life cycle: The female lays eggs on or near the products. 100 to 200 eggs are laid in clusters over a two-week period, and larvae hatch 10 to 14 days later, feeding on the product and producing large webs of silk. The larvae move off the food to pupate in the storage packaging or in the storage structure. Total development takes 82 to 206 days depending on the temperature.They develop into adults in about two months under moderate temperatures, optimal development conditions is 40 days at 27 Celsius, 75 % r.h. The insect appears three to four times per year.

Commodities infested: The tobacco moth prefers dried material of plant origin, especially cereal products, oilseeds, cocoa, chocolate, spices, nuts, dried fruit, processed foods and tobacco products. The Tobacco moth caterpillar is a pest on dried tobacco, especially on tobacco types with high sugar and low nicotine content, like oriental, flue-cured stems. The larval feeding causes the most damage to tobacco.

Treatment: Controlled Atmosphere for infestation in the product
Treatment: Heat Treatment for infestation in building

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