Ephestia kuehniella Zeller, 1879
Mill Moth
(one synonym : Homoeosoma ischnomorpha Meyrick, 1931)
PHYCITINI ,   PHYCITINAE ,   PYRALIDAE ,   PYRALOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley


(Picture: courtesy of Oklahoma State University)

This Caterpillar is a worldwide pest, particularly of stored grain and flour products. The caterpillar is off-white with a brown head. 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, containing kairomones that cause the Caterpillars to walk apart. This appears to be a mechanism that prevents overcrowding of the caterpillars. The secretion also deters female moths from laying eggs in that vicinty. Unfortunately for the caterpillars, this mandibular secretion also attracts parasitoid wasps such as the Ichneumonid Venturia canescens.


(Picture: courtesy of Oklahoma State University)

The moths are fawn coloured, with variable vague spotty dark bars across each forewing. The hundwings are plain off-white, shading to brown on the margins. The adult moths have a wingspan of about 2 cms. The adults use ultrasonic sounds (~80 Khz) in their courtship behaviour.

The species occurs world-wide, for example

  • Finland,
  • Kenya,
  • U.K.,and
  • U.S.A..

    The species was introduced into Australia by unfortunate accident. It is now found, for example, in

  • New South Wales,
  • Tasmania,
  • South Australia, and
  • Western Australia.

    Various strategies have been suggested to control it, for example :

  • using pheromone traps,
  • using food attractant substances, and
  • keeping the products in inert gases such as Carbon Dioxide,
  • various insecticides such as Sulfuryl Fluoride,
  • keeping the pupae above 30 C,
  • releasing male moths sterilised with Gamma Radiation,
  • the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis ( BACILLACEAE ),
  • using entomophagous nematodes, and
  • wasps such as Trichogramma turkestanica ( TRICHOGRAMMATIDAE ).


    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pp. 48, 350.

    Philipp C. Zeller,
    Lepidopterologische Bemerkungen,
    Entomologische Zeitung, Stettin,
    Volume 40, Parts 10-12 (1879), pp. 466-471, No. 3.


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    (updated 30 January 2010)