Agriculture: Floriculture and Ornamental Nurseries Pest Management Guidelines

European Pepper Moth (Dufo Moth)

  • Duponchelia fovealis
  • Description of the Pest

    This insect was first found in California in 2004 and now occurs in much of the state. The life stages of European pepper moth (family Crambidae) are egg, larva, pupa, and adult.

    Adults can fly and move with the wind long distances. They are 1/3 to 1/2 inch long with a wingspan of 4/5 inch. Adults are mostly brown to dark olive with bands on the abdomen and pale grayish or yellowish to white lines on the forewings; at rest the pale markings orient mostly perpendicular to body length. A distinguishing marking is the finger-shape (sharp curve) in the outer- or rear-most pale line of each forewing pointing to the rear. At rest the abdomen of males extends beyond the wings and the tip (rear end) curves distinctly upwards.

    Eggs are flattened, oval, and about 1/35 inch (0.7 mm) long. They occur singly or in a group of several laid overlapping, mostly on the underside of leaves near veins. Eggs may also occur on the upper side of leaves or on stems or soil. They are pale green or yellowish to whitish when laid, then darken to pink, reddish orange, and then brown before hatching.

    Larvae (caterpillars) grow 3/4 to 1-1/4 inches long. They are creamy whitish to pale or dark brown with a dark brown head and prothoracic shield (area on top immediately behind the head). The abdomen and thorax have rows of brown to grayish, slightly raised bumps (tubercles) each with one or two short bristles. Larvae produce thin, silken strands on chewed foliage, the base of stems, and other plant parts and on soil and plant debris in and near containers.

    Pupae are yellowish brown and 3/4 inch long or less. They occur enclosed in cocoons composed of chewed plant parts, frass (excrement), and soil particles webbed together. Cocoons are attached to the bottom and sides of plant containers, the underside of lower leaves, and on growing media, plant debris, and topsoil.

    Egg to adult development (1 generation) occurs in 6 to 8 weeks when temperatures average 68°F; 3 to 4 weeks of this time are as feeding larvae. There can be 8 or 9 generations per year in California. In greenhouses and outdoor nurseries where winters are mild, larval feeding and all life stages can occur throughout the year.


    Larvae chew buds, flowers, fruit, leaves, roots, and stems; they especially cause pits and holes in lower leaves. When abundant the larvae tend to feed higher in the plant. Damaged leaves may drop prematurely or wilt. Larval chewing on the basal stem sometimes girdles (entirely surrounds) the stem, killing the plant.

    Several dozen floriculture and nursery crops are hosts in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean region where European pepper moth is native. In cooler locations such as Canada and northern Europe it primarily is a pest in greenhouses. In southern California, damage has been observed in the field and in greenhouses on begonia, echinacea, gerbera, kalanchoe, and poinsettia. In roses it feeds primarily on fallen leaves and other crop debris.


    Cultural controls and insecticide application are important management practices. The potential effectiveness of biological control for European pepper moth in California is unknown.

    Biological Control

    Natural enemies of European pepper moth include predaceous ground beetles and soil-dwelling predatory mites, such as Hypoaspis and Stratiolaelaps spp. Trichogramma spp. wasps parasitize the eggs. The caterpillars are attacked by various parasitic wasps. For parasites and predators to potentially be effective, avoid applying broad-spectrum, persistent insecticides, especially early in the crop production cycle. Control ants, reduce dustiness, and use only selective and semi-selective insecticides where feasible. For more information see Biological Control, Protecting Natural Enemies and Pollinators, and Relative Toxicities of Pesticides Used in Floriculture and Nurseries to Natural Enemies.

    Cultural Control

    European pepper moth is a scavenger that feeds on almost any decaying or dropped plant debris, as well as directly on plants. Practice excellent sanitation to help limit its reproduction and spread. Control weeds, keep plant production areas clean, and promptly remove and dispose of crop debris in covered containers.   

    Remove the lowest leaves of hosts, especially those touching the surface of growing media, to reduce pest abundance and survival. For example, during regular monitoring, clip or pinch off and inspect the lowest leaves of each plant sampled. This also helps guide monitoring during subsequent dates by visually indicating which plants were previously inspected; during subsequent sampling, inspect different plants and clip off any leaves touching media. The underside of lowest leaves is especially difficult to cover when applying insecticide and this practice will improve coverage and the effectiveness of pesticide applications.

    Avoid crowding plants; space containers so that foliage does not touch adjacent plants. Adequate spacing inhibits caterpillar movement between plants, facilitates more thorough foliage coverage when spraying pesticides, and reduces relative humidity within canopies. European pepper moth is native to marshlands (wetlands) and thrives under moist conditions.

    Exclude migrating adults by covering greenhouse openings with screens of sufficient surface area to allow adequate ventilation. Screen and isolate individual flats to exclude adults and larvae from seedlings; larvae can also move from nearby hosts to infest new plants. Use row covers or exclusion netting to exclude moths from field crops, ensuring the cover is held above plant surfaces to eliminate oviposition on leaves contacting the material. Ensure covers and screens are properly maintained.

    Organically Acceptable Methods

    Biological and cultural controls are organically acceptable management methods. The botanicals azadirachtin, neem, and pyrethrins without piperonyl butoxide (PyGanic), entomopathogenic nematodes (Heterorhabditis and Steinernema spp.), and the microbial insecticides Bacillus thuringiensis ssp. aizawai, Bt ssp. kurstaki, and certain spinosad formulations (Entrust Naturalyte, Entrust SC) are acceptable for organic production.

    Monitoring and Treatment Decisions

    Examine hosts at least once a week for caterpillars and their chewing damage, frass (excrement), and webbing. Randomly select plants throughout the growing area. Focus inspections for European pepper moth on the basal stems and the surrounding soil, bottoms and sides of containers, crop debris in and around containers, and especially the underside of lower leaves.

    Pheromone-baited water traps are highly attractive to adult males, followed by sticky, delta traps, and funnel traps that attract and capture the adults. Bait traps with the species-specific pheromone as directed by product suppliers.


    Target early instars, regardless of the product applied, as they tend to be more susceptible and exposed to treatment. Adding narrow-range oil to the mix will kill eggs contacted directly and help to improve foliage coverage for larval control. Adding a narrow-range oil to spinosad where conditions and labels allow increases translaminar movement into plant tissue and efficacy. Applying selective (Bt) or semi-selective products (e.g., spinosad) early during the crops' production conserves natural enemies and can reduce the development of pesticide resistance. Reserve application of broad-spectrum, persistent insecticides such as organophosphates and pyrethroids for later in the production cycle.


    Focus on excluding adults from growing areas and particular groups of plants. Adults can be controlled by fogging or spraying a labeled persistent, broad-spectrum contact insecticide. Sprays must be expertly applied directed to thoroughly wet the underside of foliage with high volume and large droplet size, especially the underside of lowest leaves. Adult moths do not feed and must be directly contacted. Aerosols or fogs applied in closed greenhouses during late afternoon before the night-flying adults become active are also effective. After any adulticide application, turn off any night lighting in treated greenhouses for as long as compatible with the crops' production.

    Selected Products Registered for Greenhouse or Nursery Ornamentals

    Common name Amount to use REI‡ PHI‡
    (Example trade name) (hours) (days)
    Not all registered pesticides are listed. The following are ranked with the pesticides having the greatest integrated pest management (IPM) value listed first—the most effective and least harmful to natural enemies, honey bees, and the environment are at the top of the table. When choosing a pesticide, consider information relating to air and water quality, resistance management, and the pesticide's properties and application timing. Always read the product label. Before using a pesticide for the first time or on a new crop or cultivar, treat a few plants and check for phytotoxicity periodically before deciding whether to apply that product more extensively.
    (NemaSeek, NemAttack)# Label rates NA NA
    COMMENTS: Entomopathogenic (insect-killing), tiny roundworms. Commercially available for chemigation, drench, or spraying of planting media. Require high humidity or moist conditions and the absence of exposure to bright or direct light to be effective. In comparison with the control of pest insects that feed or pupate mostly in soil, these soil-dwelling nematodes are not as effective for this pest because many of its individuals commonly pupate aboveground.
    (Conserve SC) 6 fl oz/100 gallons water 4 NA
    (Entrust)# 1 oz/100 gal water 4 NA
    COMMENTS: A spinosyn.
    (Deliver)# 0.25–1.5 lb/100 gallons water 4 NA
    COMMENTS: A microbial. Most effective against early instars and when applied at high pressure to penetrate webbing; pheromone trapping is recommended for timing applications.
    (Xentari)# Label rates 4 NA
    COMMENTS: A microbial. Most effective against early instars and when applied at high pressure to penetrate webbing; pheromone trapping is recommended for timing applications.
    (Adept) Label rates 12 NA
    COMMENTS: An insect growth regulator (IGR).
    (Confirm 2F) Label rates 4 NA
    COMMENTS: An insect growth regulator (IGR). Only for Christmas trees and certain food crops.
    (Acelepryn) 2–16 fl oz/100 gal water 4 NA
    COMMENTS: A diamide. Do not apply more than 32 fl oz per acre per crop.
    (Pylon) 2.6–6.4 fl oz/100 gal water 12 0
    COMMENTS: A pyrrole. For use only in greenhouses.
    (Overture 35 WP) 8 oz/100 gal water 12 NA
    COMMENTS: A pyridalyl of unknown mode of action. Only for use in greenhouses.
    Hachi-Hachi SC Label rates 12 0
    COMMENTS: An inhibitor of arthropod energy metabolism. For early instars. Do not make more than two applications per crop.
    (Azatin O)# 4–16 fl. oz/100 gal water 4 0
    COMMENTS: A botanical and insect growth regulator (IGR). Must contact the insect. Repeat applications as necessary. Label permits low-volume application.
    (1300 Orthene TR, Orthene Turf, Tree & Ornamental WSP) Label rates 24 NA
    COMMENTS: An organophosphate. 1300 Orthene TR is an aerosol only for greenhouse use. Orthene Turf, Tree & Ornamental WSP is labeled only for a limited number of nursery crops; consult label for permitted uses. Phytotoxic to some chrysanthemum varieties. Can stunt new growth in roses. Do not use through any type of irrigation system.
    (Attain TR, Talstar S Select) Label rates 12 NA
    COMMENTS: A pyrethroid. Check label for allowed uses. Attain TR is a fogger for greenhouse use only.
    (Decathlon 20WP) 1.3 oz/100 gal water 12 NA
    COMMENTS: A pyrethroid. Label permits low-volume application.
    (Tame 2.4EC Spray) 5.3 fl oz/100 gal water 24 NA
    COMMENTS: A pyrethroid.
    (Pyrethrum TR) Label rates 12 NA
    COMMENTS: A botanical and synthetic synergist premix aerosol.
    (PyGanic EC 5.0 II, PyGanic EC 1.4 II)# Label rates 12 0
    COMMENTS: A botanical.
    (Marathon 1% Granular) Label rates 124 NA
    COMMENTS: A neonicotinoid. Do not apply to soils that are water logged or saturated. Do not apply to bedding plants intended to be used as food crops.
    Restricted entry interval (REI) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing. Preharvest interval (PHI) is the number of days from treatment to harvest.
    # Acceptable for use on organically grown ornamentals.
    NA Not applicable.
    1 Rotate insecticides with a different mode-of-action group number, and do not use products with the same mode of action more than twice per season to help prevent the development of resistance. For example, the organophosphates have a group number of 1B; pesticides with a 1B group number should be alternated with pesticides that have a group number other than 1B. Mode-of-action group numbers for acaricides (miticides), insecticides, nematicides, and molluscicides are assigned by the Insecticide Resistance Action Committee (IRAC).
    2 Bt aizawai and Bt kurstaki applied separately can be useful in rotation with other modes of action because some populations of diamondback moth exhibiting resistance to one Bt subspecies may have little or no resistance to the other Bt.
    3 PBO = piperonyl butoxide.
    4 If the product is drenched, soil injected, or soil incorporated workers may enter the treated area at anytime if there will be no contact with anything that has been treated.
    Text Updated: 01/22
    Treatment Table Updated: 01/22