Pectinophora gossypiella (Saunders, 1844)
Pink Bollworm
(also known as Platyedra gossypiella)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Pectinophora gossypiella
(Photo: courtesy of Peggy Greb , United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service)

This Caterpillar is initially white, becoming pink, and has a brown head and split collar. It grows to a length of about 1 cm. It bores into a bud or fruit of its food plant. It often feeds on

  • Cottonwood ( Hibiscus tiliaceus, MALVACEAE ), and
  • Broad Leaved Bottle Tree ( Brachychiton australis, STERCULIACEAE ),

    but also feeds on and is a worldwide pest causing losses up to 60% of the crop of

  • Cotton ( Gossypium hirsutum, MALVACEAE ).

    Pectinophora gossypiella
    (Photo: courtesy of Brian Cartwright, Adelaide Hills)

    The adult moths have a brown pattern on the forewings. The hindwings are off-white with brown veins. The wingspan is about 2 cms. The pheromones of this species have been identified.

    Pectinophora gossypiella
    (Photo: courtesy of the Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph)

    The species occurs world-wide, including

  • Africa,
  • Asia,
  • North America,
  • South America,

    and has been found in Australia in:

  • Western Australia,
  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales, and
  • South Australia,

    although some of the sightings may involve confusion between this species and similar pest species in Pectinophora and Pexicopia.

    Pectinophora gossypiella
    monochrome drawing by Harold Maxwell-Lefroy
    Indian Insect Life: a Manual of the Insects of the Plains, 1909, p. 532, fig. 344,
    image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library, digitized by NCSU Libraries.

    Attempts are being made to control Pectinophora gossypiella using :

    Pectinophora gossypiella
    Republique Centrafricaine, 1965

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pp. 59, 260.

    Ian F.B. Common,
    A revision of the pink bollworms of cotton (Pectinophora busck (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae)) and related genera in Austalia,
    Australian Journal of Zoology,
    Volume 6, Number 3 (1958), pp. 268-306.

    William Wilson Saunders,
    Descriptions of species of Moth destructive to the cotton crops in India,
    Transactions of the Entomological Society of London,
    Volume 3 (1844), p. 285.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 26 March 2011, 24 March 2017, 17 August 2020)