Phthorimaea operculella (Zeller, 1873)
Potato Tuberworm
(one synonym: Bryotropha solanella Boisduval, 1874)
GELECHIINAE ,   GELECHIIDAE ,   GELECHIOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley


(Specimen: courtesy of the Queensland Department of Primary Industry, Bundaberg, Queensland)

This Caterpillar is off-white, with a narrow dark brown thorax, and an even narrower dark brown head. It is an agricultural pest. It bores into the leaves, shoots and stems of the plants, as well as root tubers, of members of the family SOLANACEAE, including:

  • Potato ( Solanum tuberosum ),
  • Tomato ( Lycopersicum esculentum ),
  • Tobacco ( Nicotiana tabacum ), and
  • Eggplant ( Solanum melongena ).

    The caterpillar grows to a length of about 1 cm.


    pupa, drawing by Harold Maxwell-Lefroy
    ,
    Indian Insect Life: a Manual of the Insects of the Plains, 1909, Plate LVII, fig. 10,
    image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library, digitized by NCSU Libraries.

    The caterpillar often pupates in a damaged tuber.


    (Specimen: courtesy of the Queensland Department of Primary Industry, Bundaberg, Queensland)

    The adult moths have wings with a complex brown pattern. The moths have a wingspan of about 1 cm. The pheromones of this species have been identified.


    (Specimen: courtesy of the Queensland Department of Primary Industry, Bundaberg, Queensland)

    The eggs are round and off-white. They are laid in groups typically on the eye of a potato.


    pupa, drawing by Harold Maxwell-Lefroy
    ,
    Indian Insect Life: a Manual of the Insects of the Plains, 1909, Plate LVII, fig. 12,
    image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library, digitized by NCSU Libraries.

    The species occurs world-wide , for example

  • Hawaii,
  • India,
  • Japan,
  • New Zealand,
  • Peru,
  • Russia, and
  • USA.

    It was introduced by unfortunate accident into Australia, and occurs now in

  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Victoria,
  • Tasmania,
  • South Australia, and
  • Western Australia.


    (Picture: courtesy of the CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences)

    The species may be controlled by

  • irradiation to generate a lethal strain,
  • using insecticides,
  • the PoGV Granulosis Virus ( BACULOVIRIDAE ),
  • the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis ( BACILLACEAE ),
  • the wasp Orgilus lepidus ( BRACONIDAE ),
  • the wasp Apanteles subandinus ( BRACONIDAE ),
  • the egg parasitoid wasp Trichogramma pretiosum ( TRICHOGRAMMATIDAE ), and
  • the egg parasitoid wasp Copidosoma koehleri ( ENCYRTIDAE ).


    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, fig. 25.13, pp. 57-58, 62, 68, 260.

    Philipp C. Zeller,
    Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Nordamerikanischen Nachtfälter, besonders der Microlepidopteren 2,
    Verhandlungen der Zoologisch-Botanischen Gesellschaft in Wien,
    Band 23 (1873), pp. 262-264,, and also Plate 3, fig. 17.


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    (updated 17 December 2008, 24 March 2017)