Light Brown Apple Moth
The light brown apple moth (Epiphyas postvittana or LBAM) is a small, rather nondescript moth in the tortricid (Tortricidae) family. In North America there are approximately 1200 species of tortricid moths many of which are pest species. As its common name implies, this species is generally light brown but coloration and markings are highly variable making identification difficult for the casual observer. Unfortunately most tortricid moths are small and brown so dissections by a tortricid taxonomist are typically necessary to identify this moth.
The small green larvae roll and web leaves together or on top of fruit where they feed protected from predators. For this reason they are known as leaf-rollers. When fully grown the larvae are less than an inch in length. As with the adults, LBAM larvae are not distinguishable from many native tortricid larvae and require careful examination, rearing to adulthood, or even DNA tests to accurately identify them.
The light brown apple moth (LBAM) is a small invasive moth that was first detected in the continental United States in California in 2007. LBAM represents a serious threat to many facets of US agriculture because it feeds on a variety of agricultural crops and ornamental plants. Additionally, much of the United States has a suitable climate to support this pest. Currently the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are working to eradicate this pest from infested counties and prevent its spread to new locations. LBAM caterpillars injure seedlings, plants and fruit by feeding on or burrowing into buds, leaves, fruit or flowers. LBAM is a significant pest in its native Australia and in places where it has established including New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Hawaii. In New Zealand crop losses due to LBAM are estimated at 5-20% annually. Using these numbers, if LBAM were to establish throughout California annual crop losses would be in the billions of dollars.
LBAM was most likely introduced into the continental United States on imported plants/fruit. Thus, this same pathway may result in further introductions into the country or movement of the pest within the country. LBAM is not able to fly far distances so humans will be the primary source of dispersive means. Please do your part to prevent the spread of LBAM and other pests. Do not transport live fruits, vegetables, plants or soil to another state unless agricultural inspectors have cleared them.
LBAM caterpillars feed on and cause damage to more than 250 fruit and vegetable crops as well as many familiar garden and landscape plants. US crops most at risk are apples, grapes, oranges and pears. While LBAM most commonly feeds on herbaceous plants they feed on many tree species as well. A plant family of notable importance is the rose family (Rosaceae) which includes many important ornamentals and crop fruit trees, like apples. For a more complete list of hosts visit CDFA Light Brown Apple Moth Pest Profile and click on hosts. A major reason for the severity of LBAM as a pest is its ability to thrive on many host species, making it a serious threat to plants throughout the United States.
Due to the fact that LBAM is quite similar in appearance and behavior to many native tortricid moths, it is difficult to specify signs and symptoms unique to this pest. LBAM larvae feed in silken shelters and “rolled” leaves, leaves tied to fruits or leaves rolled together, etc. Larvae will also bore into fruit. These symptoms are typical of tortricid damage and not specific to LBAM. Larvae: green and just over half an inch long, similar to many native species. The caterpillars create a protective covering by webbing new leaves together and feeding within this protected area. Adult moths: just over half the size of a dime. Coloring and markings are variable but generally pale yellowish-brown with darker brown markings on their forewings. Eggs: flat, clear laid in bunches on the upper surface of leaves of host plants.