Ephestia elutella (Hübner, 1796)
Raisin, Cacao, Warehouse, Tobacco Moth
(erroneously : Epheitia elutea)
PHYCITINI ,   PHYCITINAE ,   PYRALIDAE ,   PYRALOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Ephestia elutella
(Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

This Caterpillar is a cosmopolitan pest on stored vegetable products, including :

  • cereals,
  • tobacco, and
  • cacao.

    The colour of the caterpillar appears to depend on its food. It can vary from nearly white to dark grey. The caterpillar has a brown head. It lives in a loose web spun amongst its food. It makes a loose silk web in its patch of foodstuff. The webbing can cause problems with machinery handing the material.

    Ephestia elutella
    (Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    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 the Ichneumonid Venturia canescens.

    Ephestia elutella
    (Photo: courtesy of Donald Hobern, Aranda, Australian Capital Territory)

    The adult is grey or brown, often with a pale basal area on each forewing demarked by a dark line. The hindwings are plain off-white. The moth has a wingspan of about 2 cms. The pheromones of the species have been elucidated.

    Ephestia elutella
    (Photo: courtesy of Donald Hobern, Aranda, Australian Capital Territory)

    The species is endemic to:

  • Europe.

    It was introduced into Australia by accident. Now, the species occurs over the whole of Australia, including:

  • Australian Capital Territory,
  • Victoria, and
  • Tasmania.

    Ephestia elutella
    drawing by Jacob Hübner, listed as Tinea elutella,

    Tineae V, Ignobiles B, Sammlung Europäischer Schmetterlinge,
    Volume 8, Plate 24, fig. 163,
    image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library, digitized by Ernst Mayr Library, Harvard University.


    Further reading :

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

    Jacob Hübner,
    Tineae V, Ignobiles B,
    Sammlung Europäischer Schmetterlinge.,
    Volume 8 (1796), p. 33, and also Plate 24, fig. 163.


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    (updated 21 August 2012, 11 October 2013, 11 December 2015)