Cadra cautella (Walker, 1863)
Almond Moth
(previously known as Ephestia cautella)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Cadra cautella
(Picture: courtesy of Casa Bernardo, Brasil)

This Caterpillar is an international agricultural pest, particularly of

  • Flowers of Date Palms ( Phoenix dactylifera, ARECACEAE ),
  • Peanuts ( Arachis hypogaea, FABACEAE ),
  • Kernels of Tree Beans ( Parkia timoriana, MIMOSACEAE ),
  • stored grain, and
  • dried fruit.

    The caterpillar grows to a length of about 1 cm.

    When one caterpillar encounters another, they each produce a small amount of brown liquid from the mouth, and this causes the Caterpillars to walk apart. This appears to be a mechanism that prevents overcrowding of the caterpillars. Unfortunately for the caterpillars, this mandibular secretion also attracts parasitoid wasps such as Venturia canescens ( ICHNEUMONIDAE ).

    Cadra cautella
    (Photo: courtesy of the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph)

    The adult moths have fawn forewings, each with various vague markings including a brown smudge near the middle, a dark medial band, and a narrower pale zigzag submarginal band. The wingspan is about 2 cms.

    The males and females come together using pheromones the chemical nature of which have been identified. The females emit these chemicals and the males sense them and fly to the female. The adults also use ultrasonic sounds (~80 Khz) in their courtship behaviour.

    Cadra cautella
    (Photo: courtesy of the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph)

    The species occurs world-wide, for example :

  • Hawaii,
  • Iran,
  • Sri Lanka,
  • Sweden,
  • U.K.,
  • U.S.A.,

    as well as being introduced by unfortunate accident into Australia, where it occurs widely, including

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

    Cadra cautella
    (Photo: courtesy of the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph)

    Attempts to control the pest have used :

  • Methyl Bromide,
  • various insecticides,
  • Plant Essential Oils,
  • a Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus,
  • water-kerosene oil-mixture trap,
  • the toxin from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis( BACILLACEAE ),
       (limited by the Caterpillars developing resistance to the toxin),
  • the wasp Bracon hebetor ( BRACONIDAE ), and
  • pheromone lures.

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, p. 350.

    Francis Walker,
    Crambites and Tortricites,
    List of the Specimens of Lepidopterous Insects in the Collection of the British Museum,
    Part 27 (1863), p. 73, No. 27.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 21 August 2012, 18 April 2014, 12 March 2021, 21 April 2022)