Phthorimaea operculella

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Phthorimaea operculella larva and pupa (Indonesia)
Authors: Merle Shepard, Gerald R.Carner, and P.A.C Ooi (Organization: Insects and their Natural Enemies Associated with Vegetables and Soybean in Southeast Asia)
Source: IPM Images

Phthorimaea operculella (Zeller, 1873) - (potato tuber moth)

The moth is an important pest of growing and stored potatoes, tomatoes and other solanaceous crops in warmer regions or of potatoes stored under warmer conditions in temperate countries. It is apparently native to South America, but now has a world-wide distribution. Just one larva can spoil a potato tuber and also introduce fungi during the attack. Losses of stored potatoes can reach 50% or more. Foliage, stems and fruits are also mined and infested.

In the field, eggs are laid on the leaves or directly on the tubers if these are close to the surface and in loose soil. The larvae grow to a length of around 1-2 cm, pupate in the soil and might overwinter there. The complete life cycle from egg, over 4 larval stages to mature adult lasts about 4-6 weeks. There may be 6-8 generations per year under suitable conditions. Dispersal is mainly through infested potato tubers.

Vernacular names
• Deutsch: Kartoffelmotte
• English: potato tuber moth
potato tuberworm
tobacco splitworm
• Español: polilla de la patata
• Français: teigne de la pomme de terre
• Português: traça-da-batatinha

Pesticides are often used for protecting seed potatoes in the field and fumigation for control of the pest in stored potatoes. In addition, biological means are available like the Phthorimaea operculella granulovirus or transgenic Bt potatoes resistant to the moth.

The adult is about 1 cm long, grey to brownish with darker spots and small patches on the narrow forewings.

Gnorimoschema operculella