South American tomato moth

Having spread to Europe, Asia and Africa, Tuta absoluta larvae cause bladder-shaped mines and bore into young stems and fruits causing up to 100% crop losses.

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  • Originated in South America – Tuta absoluta is an invasive species now found in Africa, Asia and Europe (since 2006) 

  • Small cylindrical cream/yellow coloured eggs (0.4mm) – found at base of leaves or on young stems/sepals of unripe fruit 

  • First stage larvae (0.5mm) are cream-coloured – turn yellow-green with horizontal black stripe at back of head 

  • Classed as nocturnal micro-moth – adults (6-7mm) are grey-brown with dark spots on anterior wings. Hide between leaves during the day  

  • Difficult to control with contact-acting chemical pesticides, as larvae reside in leaves

Life cycle   

  • Females can lay up to 200 eggs  

  • Tuta absoluta can produces 10 to 12 generations a year 

  • Young larvae hatch after 3 to 5 days - ready to penetrate plant tissue  

  • Egg to adult takes about 10 weeks at 15 °C/59 °F and 3 weeks at 25 °C/77 °F 

  • After 4 larval stages - pupates in silk cocoon in mines, on leaves or in the soil  

  • In cool climate can hibernate as egg, pupa or adult  

  • Females live 10-15 days – males 6-7 days 

Damage caused

  • Bladder shaped mines – caused by young larvae piercing leaves and feeding on mesophyll tissue  

  • Mines turn brown and become necrotic – excrement deposited at end of mines  

  • Larvae bore holes into young stems/fruits - dark granular excrement often found nearby 

  • Untreated, can cause harvest losses in tomatoes of 50-100% - affected fruit unsuitable for sale or consumption 



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