Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Crocidosema plebejana
(cotton tipworm)



Crocidosema plebejana (cotton tipworm)


  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Crocidosema plebejana
  • Preferred Common Name
  • cotton tipworm
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Uniramia
  •         Class: Insecta
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • There is some evidence that C. plebejana has been colonizing more northern areas in recent years, following long periods of naturalisation after establishment in non-native regions. For example, C. plebejana was first recorded in Devon, England (50.5...

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Adult male of C. plebejana. Museum set specimen, Berkeley, California, USA.
CaptionAdult male of C. plebejana. Museum set specimen, Berkeley, California, USA.
CopyrightJerry A. Powell
Adult male of C. plebejana. Museum set specimen, Berkeley, California, USA.
AdultAdult male of C. plebejana. Museum set specimen, Berkeley, California, USA.Jerry A. Powell


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Crocidosema plebejana Zeller, 1847

Preferred Common Name

  • cotton tipworm

Other Scientific Names

  • Crocidosema plebeiana Zeller
  • Crocidosema ptiladelpha Meyrick, 1917
  • Crocidosema synneurota Meyrick, 1926
  • Crocidosema? insulana Aurivililus, 1922
  • Eucosma plebeiana Zeller
  • Grapholitha peregrinana Moeschler, 1866
  • Paedisca lavaterana Milliere, 1863
  • Penthina altheana Mann, 1855
  • Proteopteryx blackburnii Butler, 1881
  • Steganoptycha obscura Wollaston, 1879

International Common Names

  • English: cotton tip borer; hollyhock moth
  • Spanish: barrenador del brote y boton

EPPO code

  • CRODPL (Crocidosema plebejana)

Summary of Invasiveness

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There is some evidence that C. plebejana has been colonizing more northern areas in recent years, following long periods of naturalisation after establishment in non-native regions. For example, C. plebejana was first recorded in Devon, England (50.5°N latitude) in 1900 and not again until 1922 on the northwest coast of Devon (51°). Several collections from 1953 to 1961 indicated that the species was established along the south coast from the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall to Dorset and south Hampshire, UK (50 to 51°) (Bradley et al., 1979). In 1994, C. plebejana was found on the Suffolk coast, UK (52°) (Hall, 1995), and then in Yorkshire, UK (54°N latitude) in 2000 (Spence, 2000).

In California, USA, C. plebejana was first detected in 1911 at San Diego (32.5°N latitude), and it was widely recorded in southern California (33 to 34°) during the following 30 years. The species extended its range northward along the coast to San Luis Obispo, California, USA (35°) by 1959 and into the San Joaquin Valley California, USA, in 1968 (35°) (Powell, 1992). An association with commercial cotton in California was not known for 50 years after its first record (Okumura, 1961), but the larvae have been taken on cotton several times since (Powell, 1992). C. plebejana appeared in Berkeley, USA (37.5°N latitude) in 1988 and has been an urban resident since then, evidently dependent upon hollyhock (Alcea rosea) and cheeseweed (Malva parviflora) (Powell, 1992).

In these instances, the delayed geographical and ecological expansion by introduced populations may have involved genetic adaptation to environmental conditions, to which the founders or even the source populations were not adapted. However, the effects of global warming enabling northward expansion may be playing a role.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Uniramia
  •                 Class: Insecta
  •                     Order: Lepidoptera
  •                         Family: Tortricidae
  •                             Genus: Crocidosema
  •                                 Species: Crocidosema plebejana

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Zeller (1847) described C. plebejana as a monobasic new genus and species. Meyrick (1886) changed the species name to plebeiana (because there is no 'j' in Latin). That spelling has been widely used in the literature, but later it was deemed to be an unjustified emendation and plebeiana is now regarded as invalid.

Meyrick (1911) treated Crocidosema as a subjective synonym of Eucosma Hübner, primarily because the separation of Crocidosema was based on male secondary characters, with genitalia features not yet employed by tortricid taxonomists. That combination was used for several years (e.g. Walsingham, 1914) until Heinrich (1921, 1923) reversed the decision based on genitalic characters.

There are several species names that are or have been considered to be synonyms, not surprising because the species had been widely transported around the world by the mid-nineteenth century, and so was newly 'discovered' in many countries during the same era.

Proteopteryx blackburnii was treated as a subjective synonym of C. plebejana by Walsingham (1907) and most later authors, but that decision was contradicted by Zimmerman (1978), who considered blackburnii, along with two other Hawaiian species described by Walsingham (Crocidosema leprara and Crocidosema marcidella), as distinct sibling species. After studying Pacific Island populations, Clarke (1971, 1986) regarded variation in the complex as intraspecific and returned blackburnii to synonymy. If the interpretation by Zimmerman is correct, by inference there may be many sibling species of Crocidosema currently regarded as the one species plebejana, scattered through the Pacific Islands and Indo-Australian region. Certainly it is unlikely that C. plebejana has reached such remote outposts as Rapa and the Marquesas Islands (northeast of Tahiti), but not Hawaii. It is possible that adventive populations in North America, the Mediterranean region, and Africa are members of two or more lineages. The complex begs for an analysis on the basis of DNA sequencing.


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The moths are small, and the forewing length is approximately 5.3 to 8.5 mm, averaging slightly larger in the females. There is sexual dimorphism in forewing colour pattern and male secondary structures.


The forewing (FW) has a short costal fold at the base, bearing upright scaling exteriorly. The FW is predominantly dark-grey or brownish-grey with a pale transverse band curving outward from the basal third of the costa to the mid-dorsal margin, expanding along on the dorsal half to encompass a poorly defined ocellar spot above the tornus. The band is variably obscured by grey-brown on the costal half and distally from a sharply defined inner margin on the dorsal half. A well-defined brown, often triangular spot precedes the ocellar spot, which is dull-whitish with two usually well-defined, thin and dark longitudinal lines, preceded and followed by patches of shining silvery-grey.

The hindwing (HW) has a large tuft of upright, dark-brown scales at the base of the Cu vein; scale colouring sparse, brownish, and concentrated along the veins and distal half of the wing.

The abdomen is dark grey-brown dorsally, and paler grey-brown ventrally, with cream-white anal tufts. The genitalia are illustrated by Heinrich (1921, 1923), Bradley et al. (1979), and Clarke (1986).


The FW averages 0.1 to 0.8 mm longer than the male FW, and lacks a costal fold. The ground colour is predominantly tan, especially the costal half, blending to a dark-brown dorsal area, interrupted by a rectangular, grey spot on the dorsal margin corresponding to a dorsal, white portion of the transverse pattern in the male.

The ocellar spot is similar to the male, but usually with four discernible longitudinal dark marks. The genitalia were figured by Heinrich (1931), Clarke (1976, 1986), and Bradley et al. (1979), who also illustrate male specimens in colour.


Bishop and Blood (1978) described the superficial appearance of C. plebejana eggs. On seedling cotton they are deposited on the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves, typically close against the veins, fitted into the gap on the vein-leaf surface interface. At oviposition they are roughly oval, and translucent white, showing the ribbing of the chorion typical of tortricids. By the third day, irregular reddish-brown patches develop, and eventually form a ring shape. On the fourth day, the dark head capsule becomes visible preceding hatching. Thus the egg resembles that of Epinotia, a closely related genus, pliable on the substrate and white when first deposited, with a pink ring appearing within 48 hours (Opler, 1974).


The early instars are whitish or grey, with a dark head capsule and thoracic shield. The late-instar larvae are approximately 8 to 12 mm long (when preserved), and the body is whitish to grey, tan, or yellowish, and often tinged with pink (Swezey, 1915; Heinrich, 1921; Bishop and Blood, 1978), or it is dark reddish-brown (Bradley et al., 1979).

The final instar has a 0.7 to 0.9 mm wide head capsule. It is yellow-brown with black ocellar (stemmatal) and postgenal areas. The thoracic shield is yellowish, and the rest of the integument is unpigmented, including the pinacula setae. The spinulae are darker than the integument; they are short and dark, and their bases are enlarged and of integumental colour, giving a pebbly appearance. The anal fork (anal comb) is moderately well developed, with five tines (MacKay, 1959). Detailed maps of the setal arrangements are illustrated by Heinrich (1921) and MacKay, based on specimens from Florida and Texas, USA (reprinted by Zimmerman, 1978).


Typical tortricoid form with moderately strong segmental rows of caudally-directed abdominal spines; weak cremaster spurs and hooked setae; dark-brown. Illustrated by Heinrich (1921) (reprinted by Zimmerman, 1978).


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The distribution map includes records based on specimens of C. plebejana from the collection in the Essig Museum of Entomology, University of California, Berkeley (USA): dates of collection are noted in the List of countries (Essig Museum of Entomology, various dates). In addition, INBio (1996) against Costa Rica refers to a specimen of C. plebejana held by the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad located at Santo Domingo de Heredia, Costa Rica; the year refers to a specimen held by a subset of INBio (ALAS project) (J Powell, University of California, Berkeley, USA, personal communication, 2004).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 12 May 2022
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes


Congo, Democratic Republic of thePresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Meyrick (1938)
KenyaPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Meyrick (1920)
Saint HelenaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AscensionPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Fletcher (1932)
São Tomé and PríncipePresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Meyrick (1934)
SeychellesPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Fletcher (1932)
South AfricaPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Pinhey (1975)
UgandaPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Bradley (1965)
ZimbabwePresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Pinhey (1975)


CambodiaPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Fletcher (1932)
IndiaPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Fletcher (1932)
JapanPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Ryukyu IslandsPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Nasu and Yasuda (1993)
-ShikokuPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Kawabe and Kusui (1978)
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Diakonoff (1967)
Sri LankaPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Diakonoff (1982)
SyriaPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Fletcher (1932)
TaiwanPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Fletcher (1932)
United Arab EmiratesPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Ezzet and Nazmi (1971)


AustriaPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Spuler (1913)
Federal Republic of YugoslaviaPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Spuler (1913)
GermanyPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Spuler (1913)
IrelandPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Huggins (1966)
PortugalPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-MadeiraPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Fletcher (1932)
SpainPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Spuler (1913)
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Walsingham, 1908
United KingdomPresentIntroduced1900InvasiveOriginal citation: Bradley and et al. (1979)

North America

BermudaPresentIntroduced1980Original citation: Ferguson and et al. (1991)
British Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Walsingham, 1897
Costa RicaPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: INBio, 1996
CubaPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Essig Museum of Entomology, 1966
Dominican RepublicPresent
GrenadaPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Walsingham, 1897
MexicoPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Walsingham, 1914
Puerto RicoPresentIntroduced
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Walsingham, 1897
United StatesPresent, Localized
-FloridaPresentIntroduced1918Original citation: Kimball (1965)
-LouisianaPresentIntroduced1916Original citation: Powell (1992)
-New MexicoPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Essig Museum of Entomology, 1979
-North CarolinaPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Ferguson and et al. (1991)
-South CarolinaPresentIntroduced1944Original citation: Powell (1992)
-TexasPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Heinrich (1921)


-New South WalesPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Meyrick (1911)
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Meyrick (1911)
-South AustraliaPresent
-VictoriaPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Meyrick (1911)
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Meyrick (1911)
FijiPresentOriginal citation: Dugdale (1977)
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Meyrick (1929)
-Marquesas IslandsPresentIntroduced
New ZealandPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Hudson (1928)
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Clarke (1976)
SamoaPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Meyrick (1927)
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Bradley (1961)
TongaPresentOriginal citation: Buxton and Hopkins (1927)
VanuatuPresentOriginal citation: Buxton and Hopkins (1927)

South America

ArgentinaPresentOriginal citation: Fletcher (1932)
BrazilPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AmazonasPresentOriginal citation: Meyrick (1930)
-Rio Grande do SulPresentOriginal citation: Biezanko (1961)
ChilePresentNativeOriginal citation: Clarke (1971)
EcuadorPresentOriginal citation: Meyrick (1917)
-Galapagos IslandsPresentOriginal citation: Meyrick (1926)
PeruPresentOriginal citation: Meyrick (1917)

History of Introduction and Spread

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The geographic origin of C. plebejana is unknown, but is suspected to be South America, based on the occurrence of other Crocidosema species (Meyrick, 1917 and citations therein; Fletcher, 1932; Powell et al., 1995). Owing to the variation among populations of the Pacific Islands (Clarke, 1971, 1976, 1986; Zimmerman, 1978), that region is a possible evolutionary source of plebejana too. In any case, the species was first discovered at the port of Syracuse on the south coast of Sicily (Zeller, 1847), where it presumably had already been introduced by shipping. By the late nineteenth century it had become established pan-globally in warmer regions, having been recorded in France (Milliere, 1863), the South Pacific islands (Meyrick, 1886), the West Indies (Walsingham, 1897), the south coast of England by 1900 (Bradley et al., 1979), and the Canary Islands in 1907 (Walsingham, 1908). Evidently C. plebejana is very successful at spreading on its own in association with weeds, especially Malva parviflora, and by the movement of nursery stock, such as hollyhock (Alcea rosea). For example, it was known across the southern states of Australia and in Queensland by 1911 (Meyrick, 1911). Probably this species is established in all countries with suitable habitats, and no doubt a more thorough search of the literature would produce many additional records to those in the table of known distribution in this datasheet.

Risk of Introduction

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It is probable that C. plebejana is already established in virtually every country where subtropical or moderate temperate climatic conditions favour its development. In regions where cotton (Gossypium spp.) or okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) have recently been or are to be cultivated there is a considerable chance that populations of this moth exist in the vicinity, dependent upon weedy Malvaceae or ornamental plants such as Hibiscus and Alcea, and may pose a threat. However, C. plebejana is not well adapted to cotton, particularly because its chemistry changes after flowering (Hamilton and Zalucki, 1993a), and it is not a preferred host.

Hosts/Species Affected

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Host-Plant Associations

A major factor in the adventive success of C. plebejana has been its ability to adopt diverse larval food plants, primarily Malvaceae, but evidently some unrelated plants as well. C. plebejana feeds on many native species in the places it colonizes. For example, Heinrich (1921) and Bottimer (1926) recorded seven native and two weed species of Malvaceae in Texas, USA, in addition to one Sterculiaceae. A number of plant species have been recorded as hosts of C. plebejana larvae in the field in various geographical locations (see Mann, 1855; Milliere, 1863; Spuler, 1913; Walsingham, 1914; Heinrich, 1921; Bottimer, 1926; Fletcher, 1932; Bishop and Blood, 1978; Clarke, 1986; Common, 1990; Ferguson et al., 1991; Powell, 1992; Hamilton and Zalucki, 1993a; Nasu and Yasuda, 1993; Heppner, 2004). Incidental or doubtful host plants are recorded in Heinrich (1923), Bottimer (1926), Fletcher (1932), Clarke (1986), Common (1990), and Heppner (2004).

Detailed information on host use among the non-malvaceous plants is not available: for example, whether they represent single occurrences; whether populations having undergone unusual host switches; or further information on individual larvae occasionally being found on weedy hosts growing near malvaceous hosts. Some of these records may be based on misidentified larvae.

Growth Stages

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Flowering stage, Fruiting stage, Seedling stage, Vegetative growing stage


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Larval Habits

Affected plant parts vary with host species and season. Typically the larvae feed in seed capsules on immature seeds, but occasionally in flowers on the pollen (Heinrich, 1921), undeveloped flower buds (Fletcher, 1921), or leaves (Fletcher, 1932). They cause severe damage to cotton seedlings in Australia, burrowing into the shoots (Bishop and Blood, 1978; Hamilton and Gage, 1986), but they do not feed on larger squares (flower buds), flowers, or small to medium sized bolls (Hamilton and Zalucki, 1993a, b). Usually the larvae are found singly in seed capsules, except in okra (Hibiscus esculentus), in which several specimens occurred in one pod, whereas on Sida spp. and other plants with quite small seed pods, the larvae often feed in a tied shelter of terminal leaves and immature seed capsules (Bottimer, 1926). On Lavatera arborea [Malva dendromorpha] in Europe, a larva moves from one capsule to another, boring a hole through the side of the capsule (Bradley et al., 1979). Pupation occurs in the larval gallery or shelter, or within a leaf roll (Bottimer, 1926). Among non-malvaceous plants, the larvae have been found webbing the terminal leaves of Atriplex spp. and sometimes damage the ears of wheat in Australia (Common, 1990).

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Fruit / abnormal shape
Fruit / external feeding
Fruit / frass visible
Fruit / gummosis
Fruit / internal feeding
Fruit / obvious exit hole
Fruit / premature drop
Fruit / reduced size
Fruit / webbing
Growing point / dead heart
Growing point / dieback
Growing point / distortion
Growing point / dwarfing; stunting
Growing point / external feeding
Growing point / frass visible
Growing point / internal feeding; boring
Growing point / wilt
Inflorescence / dwarfing; stunting
Inflorescence / external feeding
Inflorescence / frass visible
Inflorescence / twisting and distortion
Inflorescence / webbing
Leaves / external feeding
Leaves / frass visible
Leaves / leaves rolled or folded
Leaves / webbing
Seeds / empty grains
Seeds / external feeding
Seeds / frass visible
Seeds / internal feeding
Seeds / webbing
Stems / dieback
Stems / distortion
Stems / internal feeding
Stems / visible frass
Stems / webbing
Stems / witches broom

Biology and Ecology

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No available information.

Phenology and Reproductive Biology

The biology and ecology of C. plebejana have been studied in Australia, where it is a minor to occasionally serious pest of seedling cotton in southern Queensland and New South Wales (Bishop and Blood, 1978; Hamilton and Gage, 1986; Hamilton and Zalucki, 1991, 1993a, b). However, there seems to have been no detailed study of the life cycle independent of the cotton-growing season or in other regions.

This species primarily occurs in semi-arid tropical and subtropical regions, but has adapted to a wide range of environments in adventive situations worldwide. The adults are active at various times of the year, and there is no mention of diapause in the literature. In southern California, USA, where C. plebejana has been resident for nearly a century, there are collection records from throughout the year. In coastal central California from 1990 to 1998, there were sporadic records from December to June, and C. plebejana flew more or less continuously from July to November, with no indication of discrete generations (J Powell, University of California, Berkeley, USA, personal communication, 2004, on the basis of data collected in 1992). The larvae are probably active as long as temperature conditions are favourable and the host plants remain available.

When reared in the laboratory at 25°C, egg and larval development was very rapid compared to other Tortricidae and most Lepidoptera, requiring just 3.5 to 4 days incubation and 14 days for larval growth (Bishop and Blood, 1978), whereas pupal development was about average for tortricids (10.7 days).

Hamilton and Zalucki (1991) reared the tipworm at various temperatures from 14 to 34°C and obtained even faster growth rates at higher temperatures, averaging 2.8 to 2.5 days incubation and 12.6 to 10 days for larval growth at 28 to 34°C. However, at the latter temperatures survival was reduced and all eggs laid were infertile. Their results at 25°C were similar to those of Bishop and Blood's; 27 to 28 days development time from egg to adult. A minimum of 10.4 days for larval growth and 18.8 to 19.5 days development from egg to adult at 31°C are the shortest periods seen by the author of this datasheet for any lepidopteran (J Powell, University of California, Berkeley, USA, personal communication, 2004). Hence, it would be possible for 10 or 12 generations to be completed annually under optimum conditions, but probably no more than three to five generations are realized in most temperate and subtropical regions. In Queensland, Hamilton and Zalucki (1991) suggest that three to five generations are possible on cotton (Gossypium spp.) annually, but only one occurs.

Environmental requirements: C. plebejana was first discovered in Sicily, Italy, but it may already have been transported widely in subtropical regions with malvaceous plants, including cotton and okra (Abelmoschus esculentus). There are 22 other described species of Crocidosema in South America, Panama, and Costa Rica, and the Caribbean islands (Powell et al., 1995). Thus C. plebejana may have been native to the neotropics, perhaps lowland situations in more arid regions, such as the west coast of South America. It has adapted to diverse climatic situations, including innumerable Pacific islands. Closely related species or differing populations of C. plebejana may have been native on the Juan Fernandez Islands off the coast of Chile, the South Pacific islands, and the Hawaiian Islands, or there has been appreciable differentiation of island populations in relatively recent times (Clarke 1971, 1986; Zimmerman, 1978).

There is evidence that the successful colonization of cotton is dependent or at least enhanced by alternate use of weeds such as Anoda cristata (Bishop and Blood, 1978) and Malva parviflora (Hamilton and Zalucki, 1993a, b), which may develop inflorescences throughout the year, particularly in irrigated lands. Alternatively, Crocidosema spp. larvae can build up on Malva spp. then cause damage to cotton after the weed senesces (Hamilton and Zalucki, 1991). Cotton is not a preferred host because changes in chemical composition following flowering deter feeding (Hamilton and Zalucki, 1993a). Diapause is not known in C. plebejana and therefore populations probably cannot survive on cotton alone.

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Trichogramma Parasite Eggs

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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There are no data on dispersal distances of the adult moths. The most likely source of long-distance movement historically is the transportation of ornamental and crop host plants, hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), hollyhock (Alcea rosea), and okra (Abelmoschus esculentus). The eggs or young larvae attached to seedling plants or on and in seed capsules are probably the stages that have been passively carried by shipping. However, no records of detection or interception of the immature stages are readily available, if these exist at all (J Powell, University of California, Berkeley, USA, personal communication, 2004).

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Land vehicles Yes

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Flowers/Inflorescences/Cones/Calyx arthropods/larvae Yes Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Fruits (inc. pods) arthropods/larvae Yes Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Leaves arthropods/larvae Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants arthropods/larvae Yes Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches arthropods/larvae Yes Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Growing medium accompanying plants

Wood Packaging

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Wood Packaging not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Loose wood packing material
Processed or treated wood
Solid wood packing material with bark
Solid wood packing material without bark

Impact Summary

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Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) None
Crop production Negative
Environment (generally) None
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production None
Human health None
Livestock production None
Native fauna None
Native flora Negative
Rare/protected species None
Tourism None
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel None

Detection and Inspection

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Effects on plants include the following and should be looked for in visual inspections:

- On seedlings: webbed up shelters in terminal leaves; distorted or blackened terminal growth at the meristem; and larval tunnels in the apical stem.

- In flower buds and flowers: webbing and frass amongst the petals and stamens.

- In seed capsules: holes to the exterior; webbing and eaten immature seeds; frass; and possibly some exudation from green fruit.

On plants with tiny seed capsules (e.g. Sida spp.), the leaves may be webbed together with the inflorescences and young seed capsules.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Zimmerman (1978) interpreted variation in specimens of Crocidosema from the Hawaiian islands as representing three endemic species in the absence of C. plebejana, contradicting the opinions of Walsingham (1907, 1914) and others who recorded plebejana from Hawaii and treated Crocidosema blackburnii as a synonym. If this is true, by implication, Crocidosema on various Pacific islands that show minor morphological differentiation, presumably represent a complex of sibling species. It is extremely unlikely that C. plebejana occurs on islands all over the Pacific, but not on Hawaii; the most likely site for recent introduction and/or by Polynesians centuries ago. Clarke (1971, 1986) discussed the problem and concluded that such island populations could not be regarded as distinct species from one another or the New World populations, including the Juan Fernandez Islands, Chile. Therefore, if Zimmerman's interpretation is correct, there are several described, including C. blackburnii, Crocidosema leprara, and Crocidosema marcidella in Hawaii, and possibly many undescribed species that are very similar to C. plebejana.

Several species of other Eucosmini genera are superficially similar, in forewing colour pattern, to either the males or females of C. plebejana. The males resemble several species of Epinotia or Epiblema, but can be readily recognised by the large hindwing scale tufts at the base of the Cu vein. The females are similar to some species of Epinotia, Eucosma, or Phaneta, but can be differentiated by details of the forewing pattern, or it may be necessary to examine the genitalia, especially if specimens are worn.

The larvae probably cannot be reliably distinguished from other similar Eucosmini without detailed comparison to setal patterns, but few other Eucosmini are specialists on Malvaceae and none is known to be pests of cotton (Gossypium spp.) or okra (Abelmoschus esculentus).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

The eggs and newly-hatched larvae are the most susceptible stages to chemical control in the 4 or 5 days before the insect bores into the terminal of the plant (Bishop and Blood, 1978). Once the larvae are inside the stem, insecticides do not provide adequate control. Broad-spectrum insecticides generally have low efficacy and can reduce the natural enemy population, which can result in a resurgence of the pest (Bailey, 2007). A threshold of one or two larvae per metre has been reported for tip damage in cotton (Bailey, 2007). 

C. plebejana can be controlled effectively by the use of insect-resistant transgenic cotton varieties (Naranjo et al., 2008; Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, 2010).


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Aurivillius CVS, 1922. Lepidoptera. In: Skottsberg C, ed. The Natural History of Juan Fernandez and Easter Island, 3:263-270

Bailey PT, 2007. Pests of field crops and pastures: identification and control [ed. by Bailey, P. T.]. Collingwood, Australia: CSIRO Publishing, viii + 520 pp

Baran T, 2009. On interesting species of micro-moths (Lepidoptera) from Poland. Polish Journal of Entomology, 78(1):91-99

Bedford HW, 1931. Report on the work carried out at the Khartoum Laboratory during 1929. Review of Applied Entomology, Series A, 19:391-392

Biezanko CM, 1961. XIII Olethreutidae, Tortricidae, Phaloniidae, et Psychidae da zona suesta do Rio Grande do Sul. Ministerio Agric., Inst. Agron. do Sul, Pelotas. Arquivos Entomol., Series A, 15

Bishop AL, Blood PRB, 1978. Temporal distribution, biology and life history of the cotton tipworm, Crocidosema plebiana Zeller, on cotton in the south-eastern Queensland region. Australian Journal of Zoology, 26(1):147-152

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Distribution References

Baran T, 2009. On interesting species of micro-moths (Lepidoptera) from Poland. Polish Journal of Entomology. 78 (1), 91-99.

CABI, Undated. Compendium record. Wallingford, UK: CABI

CABI, Undated a. CABI Compendium: Status inferred from regional distribution. Wallingford, UK: CABI

CABI, Undated b. CABI Compendium: Status as determined by CABI editor. Wallingford, UK: CABI

EPPO, 2022. EPPO Global database. In: EPPO Global database, Paris, France: EPPO. 1 pp.

Grubišić D, Barčić J I, Barić B, Čuljak T G, 2006. Possibilities for biological control of velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti Medik.) with phytophagous insects. Entomologia Croatica. 10 (1/2), 67-86.

Huisman K J, Koster J C, Nieukerken E J van, Ulenberg S A, 2005. Microlepidoptera in The Netherlands in 2003. (Microlepidoptera in Nederland in 2003.). Entomologische Berichten. 65 (2), 30-42.

Mensah R, Vodouhê D S, Sanfilippo D, 2008. A new tool for Africa's organic cotton growers. In: Pesticides News, London, UK: Pesticide Action Network UK. 5-7.

Retallack M J, Mackay D, Thomson L J, Keller M A, 2018. Which species of Tortricidae leafrollers are key insect pests in South Australian vineyards? Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia. 142 (2), 130-142.

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