Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Spodoptera littoralis
(cotton leafworm)



Spodoptera littoralis (cotton leafworm)


  • Last modified
  • 11 December 2020
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Natural Enemy
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Spodoptera littoralis
  • Preferred Common Name
  • cotton leafworm
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Uniramia
  •         Class: Insecta

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Larva of S. littoralis, showing light and dark longitudinal bands on sides of the body and dark spots on segments of the dorsal side.
CaptionLarva of S. littoralis, showing light and dark longitudinal bands on sides of the body and dark spots on segments of the dorsal side.
CopyrightBiologische Bundesanstalt, Dossenheim, Germany
Larva of S. littoralis, showing light and dark longitudinal bands on sides of the body and dark spots on segments of the dorsal side.
LarvaLarva of S. littoralis, showing light and dark longitudinal bands on sides of the body and dark spots on segments of the dorsal side.Biologische Bundesanstalt, Dossenheim, Germany
S. littoralis larva feeding on cotton leaves.
CaptionS. littoralis larva feeding on cotton leaves.
S. littoralis larva feeding on cotton leaves.
LarvaS. littoralis larva feeding on cotton leaves.©AgrEvo
Adult moth of S. littoralis (museum set specimen).
CaptionAdult moth of S. littoralis (museum set specimen).
Copyright©Georg Goergen/IITA Insect Museum, Cotonou, Benin
Adult moth of S. littoralis (museum set specimen).
AdultAdult moth of S. littoralis (museum set specimen).©Georg Goergen/IITA Insect Museum, Cotonou, Benin
S. littoralis egg mass on leaf of Rosa spp. from Kenya.
CaptionS. littoralis egg mass on leaf of Rosa spp. from Kenya.
Copyright©Maarten van Merriënboer/PPS, Aalsmeer, Netherlands
S. littoralis egg mass on leaf of Rosa spp. from Kenya.
OvaS. littoralis egg mass on leaf of Rosa spp. from Kenya.©Maarten van Merriënboer/PPS, Aalsmeer, Netherlands
Close-up of S. littoralis egg mass on leaf of Rosa spp. from Kenya.
CaptionClose-up of S. littoralis egg mass on leaf of Rosa spp. from Kenya.
Copyright©Maarten van Merriënboer/PPS, Aalsmeer, Netherlands
Close-up of S. littoralis egg mass on leaf of Rosa spp. from Kenya.
OvaClose-up of S. littoralis egg mass on leaf of Rosa spp. from Kenya.©Maarten van Merriënboer/PPS, Aalsmeer, Netherlands


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Spodoptera littoralis (Boisduval)

Preferred Common Name

  • cotton leafworm

Other Scientific Names

  • Hadena littoralis Boisduval
  • Noctua gossypii
  • Prodenia littoralis (Boisduval)
  • Prodenia litura Fabricius sensu auctorum
  • Prodenia retina (Freyer)
  • Prodenia testaceoides Guenee

International Common Names

  • English: Egyptian cotton leafworm; Egyptian cotton worm; leafworm, Egyptian cotton; Mediterranean brocade moth; Mediterranean climbing cutworm; Mediterranean climbing cutworm; tobacco caterpillar; tomato caterpillar
  • Spanish: gusano negro; rosquilla negra
  • French: noctuelle méditerranéenne; ver du coton

Local Common Names

  • Denmark: afrikansk bomuldsugle
  • Finland: krysanteemiyökönnen
  • Germany: Afrikanischer Baumwollwurm
  • Sweden: afrikanskt bomullsfly

EPPO code

  • SPODLI (Spodoptera littoralis)

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Uniramia
  •                 Class: Insecta
  •                     Order: Lepidoptera
  •                         Family: Noctuidae
  •                             Genus: Spodoptera
  •                                 Species: Spodoptera littoralis

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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For about 60 years, the Egyptian cotton leafworm was known as Prodenia litura. However, Viette (1962) demonstrated that S. littoralis is a species separate from S. litura. Some authors mistakenly continue to regard the allopatric Old World cotton leafworm species S. littoralis and S. litura as the same species. Generally, however, it is accepted that S. littoralis is found in Africa, Madagascar, Europe and the Middle East, whereas S. litura is found in Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands.


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Spherical, somewhat flattened, 0.6 mm in diameter, laid in clusters arranged in more or less regular rows in one to three layers, with hair scales derived from the tip of the abdomen of the female moth. Usually whitish-yellow in colour, changing to black just prior to hatching, due to the big head of the larva showing through the transparent shell (Pinhey, 1975).


Larvae grow to 40-45 mm and are hairless, cylindrical, tapering towards the posterior and variable in colour (blackish-grey to dark green, becoming reddish-brown or whitish-yellow). The sides of the body have dark and light longitudinal bands; dorsal side with two dark semilunar spots laterally on each segment, except for the prothorax; spots on the first and eighth abdominal segments larger than the others, interrupting the lateral lines on the first segment. The larva of S. littoralis is figured by Bishari (1934) and Brown and Dewhurst (1975).


When newly formed, pupae are green with a reddish colour on the abdomen, turining dark reddish-brown after a few hours. The general shape is cylindrical, 14-20 x 5 mm, tapering towards the posterior segments of the abdomen. The last segment ends in two strong straight hooks (Pinhey, 1975).


Moth with grey-brown body, 15-20 mm long; wingspan 30-38 mm; forewings grey to reddish brown with paler lines along the veins (in males, bluish areas occur on the wing base and tip); the ocellus is marked by two or three oblique whitish stripes. Hindwings are greyish white, irridescent with grey margins and usually lack darker veins (EPPO, 1997).


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The northernly distribution limit of S. littoralis in Europe corresponds to the climatic zone in which winter frosts are infrequent. It occurs throughout Africa and extends eastwards into Turkey and north into eastern Spain, southern France and northern Italy. However, this boundary is probably the extent of migrant activity only because although the pest overwinters in southern Spain, it does not do so in northern Italy or France. In southern Greece, pupae have been observed in the soil after November and the species overwinters in this stage in Crete. Low winter temperatures are therefore an important limiting factor affecting the northerly distribution, especially in a species with no known diapause (Miller, 1976; Sidibe and Lauge, 1977).

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


Burkina FasoPresent
Cabo VerdePresent
Central African RepublicPresent
Congo, Democratic Republic of thePresent
Congo, Republic of thePresent
Côte d'IvoirePresent
EgyptPresent, Widespread
Equatorial GuineaPresent, Localized
EritreaPresent, Localized
LibyaPresent, Widespread
MoroccoPresent, Widespread
Saint HelenaPresent
São Tomé and PríncipePresent
Sierra LeonePresent
South AfricaPresent, Widespread
TunisiaPresent, Localized
ZimbabwePresent, Widespread


IranPresent, Widespread
IsraelPresent, Widespread
PakistanAbsent, Formerly present
Saudi ArabiaPresent
TurkeyPresent, LocalizedFirst reported: 197*
United Arab EmiratesPresent
YemenPresent, Localized


CroatiaAbsent, Confirmed absent by survey
CyprusPresent, Widespread
DenmarkAbsent, Intercepted only
FinlandAbsent, Eradicated
FrancePresent, Few occurrences
GermanyAbsent, Eradicated
GreecePresent, Localized
HungaryAbsent, Intercepted only
ItalyPresent, Localized1968
MaltaPresent, Widespread
NetherlandsAbsent, EradicatedAbsent, pest eradicated, confirmed by survey. Based on long-term annual surveys, 362 survey observations in 2012.
PortugalPresent, Localized
SpainPresent, Localized
-Balearic IslandsPresent, Localized
-Canary IslandsPresent
SwedenAbsent, Formerly present
SwitzerlandAbsent, Formerly present
United KingdomAbsent, Eradicated
-EnglandAbsent, Formerly present

Risk of Introduction

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EPPO has listed S. littoralis as an A2 quarantine pest (OEPP/EPPO, 1981). CPPC, NAPPO and OIRSA also consider it to be of quarantine significance. It is a potential pest of areas where the average annual minimal temperature is not below -10°C. S. littoralis is already fairly widespread in Mediterranean countries and does not present a phytosanitary risk there. The most significant phytosanitary risk for S. littoralis is the possible introduction into glasshouses in most parts of Europe, where it could damage many ornamental and vegetable crops. Although control with insecticides is possible, there have been many cases of resistance and the lack of available biological control methods means that introduction of S. littoralis into glasshouses could necessitate insecticide treatments that could interfere with existing biological control of other pests (EPPO, 1997).

S. littoralis first appeared in UK glasshouses in considerable numbers in 1963. It was found that the eggs were being introduced on imported cuttings, especially chrysanthemums and carnations.

Habitat List

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Hosts/Species Affected

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The host range of S. littoralis covers over 40 families, containing at least 87 species of economic importance (Salama et al., 1970).

In many of the published reports of host plants, it is difficult to distinguish between S. littoralis and S. litura but the tabular data refers entirely to records from the distribution area of the former. Both species are totally polyphagous (Brown and Dewhurst, 1975; Holloway, 1989).

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContextReferences
Abelmoschus esculentus (okra)MalvaceaeMain
Acacia nilotica (gum arabic tree)FabaceaeOther
Actinidia arguta (tara vine)ActinidiaceaeOther
Alcea rosea (Hollyhock)MalvaceaeOther
Allium ampeloprasum (wild leek)LiliaceaeUnknown
Allium cepa (onion)LiliaceaeMain
Allium fistulosum (Welsh onion)LiliaceaeOther
Amaranthus (amaranth)AmaranthaceaeMain
Anemone (windflower)RanunculaceaeOther
Antirrhinum majus (snapdragon)ScrophulariaceaeWild host
Apium graveolens (celery)ApiaceaeOther
Arachis hypogaea (groundnut)FabaceaeMain
Asparagus officinalis (asparagus)LiliaceaeOther
Beta vulgaris (beetroot)ChenopodiaceaeMain
Beta vulgaris var. ciclaChenopodiaceaeUnknown
Beta vulgaris var. saccharifera (sugarbeet)ChenopodiaceaeMain
Brassica oleracea (cabbages, cauliflowers)BrassicaceaeMain
Brassica oleracea var. capitata (cabbage)BrassicaceaeOther
Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis (Chinese cabbage)BrassicaceaeMain
Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensisBrassicaceaeOther
Brassicaceae (cruciferous crops)BrassicaceaeMain
Callistephus chinensis (China aster)AsteraceaeOther
Camellia sinensis (tea)TheaceaeMain
Capsicum (peppers)SolanaceaeOther
Capsicum annuum (bell pepper)SolanaceaeMain
Casuarina equisetifolia (casuarina)CasuarinaceaeWild host
Chloris gayana (Rhodes grass)PoaceaeOther
Chrysanthemum indicum (chrysanthemum)AsteraceaeMain
Citrullus lanatus (watermelon)CucurbitaceaeMain
Citrus aurantium (sour orange)RutaceaeMain
Coffea arabica (arabica coffee)RubiaceaeMain
Convolvulus (morning glory)ConvolvulaceaeOther
Corchorus capsularis (white jute)TiliaceaeOther
Corchorus olitorius (jute)TiliaceaeMain
Cucurbita (pumpkin)CucurbitaceaeMain
Cucurbita pepo (marrow)CucurbitaceaeMain
Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus (globe artichoke)AsteraceaeMain
Dalbergia sissooFabaceaeOther
Datura (thorn-apple)SolanaceaeOther
Daucus carota (carrot)ApiaceaeMain
Dianthus barbatus (sweet williams)CaryophyllaceaeOther
Dianthus caryophyllus (carnation)CaryophyllaceaeMain
Eucalyptus globulus (Tasmanian blue gum)LithomyrtusWild host
Fabaceae (leguminous plants)FabaceaeMain
Ficus carica (common fig)MoraceaeMain
Ficus sycomorus (sycamore fig)MoraceaeUnknown
Fragaria vesca (wild strawberry)RosaceaeWild host
Gerbera (Barbeton daisy)AsteraceaeMain
Gladiolus hybrids (sword lily)IridaceaeOther
Glycine max (soyabean)FabaceaeMain
Gossypium (cotton)MalvaceaeMain
Gossypium barbadense (Gallini cotton)MalvaceaeMain
Gossypium hirsutum (Bourbon cotton)MalvaceaeUnknown
Guizotia abyssinica (niger)AsteraceaeWild host
Helianthus annuus (sunflower)AsteraceaeMain
Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem artichoke)AsteraceaeMain
Hibiscus cannabinus (kenaf)MalvaceaeOther
Hibiscus mutabilis (cottonrose)MalvaceaeOther
Indigofera tinctoria (true indigo)FabaceaeOther
Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato)ConvolvulaceaeMain
Jatropha curcas (jatropha)EuphorbiaceaeWild host
Lactuca sativa (lettuce)AsteraceaeMain
Luffa aegyptiaca (loofah)CucurbitaceaeOther
Malus sylvestris (crab-apple tree)RosaceaeWild host
Medicago sativa (lucerne)FabaceaeMain
Melilotus spp.FabaceaeOther
Mentha spicata (Spear mint)LamiaceaeOther
Monstera deliciosa (ceriman)AraceaeWild host
Morus alba (mora)MoraceaeUnknown
Musa (banana)MusaceaeOther
Musa x paradisiaca (plantain)MusaceaeMain
Nicandra physalodes (apple of Peru)SolanaceaeWild host
Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco)SolanaceaeMain
Opuntia (Pricklypear)CactaceaeOther
Oryza sativa (rice)PoaceaeMain
Persea americana (avocado)LauraceaeMain
Petroselinum crispum (parsley)ApiaceaeUnknown
Phaseolus (beans)FabaceaeMain
Phaseolus vulgaris (common bean)FabaceaeMain
Phoenix dactylifera (date-palm)ArecaceaeOther
Piper (pepper)PiperaceaeOther
Pistia stratiotes (water lettuce)AraceaeOther
Pisum sativum (pea)FabaceaeMain
Poaceae (grasses)PoaceaeMain
Polyphagous (polyphagous)Main
Populus alba (silver-leaf poplar)SalicaceaeOther
Portulaca oleracea (purslane)PortulacaceaeOther
Prunus domestica (plum)RosaceaeMain
Prunus salicina (Japanese plum)RosaceaeOther
Psidium guajava (guava)LithomyrtusMain
Punica granatum (pomegranate)PunicaceaeMain
Quercus petraea (durmast oak)FagaceaeWild host
Raphanus sativus (radish)BrassicaceaeMain
Ricinus communis (castor bean)EuphorbiaceaeMain
Rosa (roses)RosaceaeMain
Saccharum officinarum (sugarcane)PoaceaeMain
Salvia officinalis (common sage)LamiaceaeOther
Senecio (Groundsel)AsteraceaeWild host
Sesamum indicum (sesame)PedaliaceaeOther
Sesbania sesban (sesban)FabaceaeOther
Solanum lycopersicum (tomato)SolanaceaeMain
Solanum melongena (aubergine)SolanaceaeMain
Solanum tuberosum (potato)SolanaceaeMain
Sorghum bicolor (sorghum)PoaceaeMain
Spinacia oleracea (spinach)ChenopodiaceaeMain
Tectona grandis (teak)LamiaceaeWild host
Theobroma cacao (cocoa)MalvaceaeMain
Trifolium (clovers)FabaceaeOther
Trifolium alexandrinum (Berseem clover)FabaceaeOther
Trifolium repens (white clover)FabaceaeOther
Trifolium spp.FabaceaeOther
Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek)FabaceaeOther
Triticum aestivum (wheat)PoaceaeMain
Verbena (vervain)VerbenaceaeOther
Vicia faba (faba bean)FabaceaeMain
Vigna angularis (adzuki bean)FabaceaeOther
Vigna mungo (black gram)FabaceaeMain
Vigna radiata (mung bean)FabaceaeMain
Vigna unguiculata (cowpea)FabaceaeMain
Viola odorata (English violet)ViolaceaeOther
Vitis (grape)VitaceaeUnknown
Vitis vinifera (grapevine)VitaceaeMain
Zea mays (maize)PoaceaeMain
Zinnia elegans (zinnia)AsteraceaeOther

Growth Stages

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


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On most crops, damage arises from extensive feeding by larvae, leading to complete stripping of the plants.

On cotton, the larvae feed on the leaves creating large holes of irregular shape and usually all that remains are the bigger veins. The larvae may also bore into the bud or young boll and consume the whole contents, causing them to be shed or dry up (Bishari, 1934). Bolls have large holes in them from which yellowish- to dark-green larval excrement protrudes. On tobacco, leaves develop irregular, brownish-red patches and the stem base may be gnawed off. Maize stems are often mined by S. littoralis and young grains in the ear may also be damaged.

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Fruit / frass visible
Fruit / internal feeding
Fruit / obvious exit hole
Fruit / premature drop
Leaves / external feeding
Leaves / shredding

Biology and Ecology

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Female moths lay most of their egg masses (20-1000 eggs) on the lower surface of younger leaves or upper parts of the plant (Khalifa et al., 1982). On cotton, the first three larval instars feed mainly on the lower surface of the leaves, whereas later instars feed on both surfaces. The larvae feed mainly in the dark, although this behaviour pattern may be less noticeable in early instars (Hassan et al., 1960). Pinhey (1975) recorded that >50% of the nocturnal larval population consisted of early instar larvae. In summer the majority of fifth- and sixth-instar larvae leave the plants during mid-morning until sunset, returning to climb the plant at night (Baker and Miller, 1974). Third- and fourth-instars rest on the plant and remain stationary unless overcrowded.

On pupation the fully grown larva pushes the loose surface of the soil downwards until it reaches more solid ground 3-5 cm deep. It then creates a clay 'cell' or cocoon in which it usually pupates within 5-6 hours (Pinhey, 1975).

Emergence of adult moths occurs at night and they have a life span of 5-10 days (Shalama and Shoukry, 1972). The reproductive capacity, egg facility and life span of moths are affected by the difference in ages between males and females. The highest ratio of egg fertility was obtained by mating between 4-day-old males with fresh females (Nasr and Nassif, 1978). There is also a correlation between the host plant and the longevity and fecundity of S. littoralis (Dimetry and Nadia, 1972). The majority of adults mate on the first night of emergence, copulation lasting for 20 minutes to 2 hours. Approximately 50% of mated females lay their eggs on the same night of mating, before sunrise (Hassan et al., 1960). Adults fly at night, mostly between 20.00 and midnight (Nasr et al., 1981). Flight activity is governed by atmospheric conditions, increases in relative humidity and decreases in air temperature inducing flight (Hassan et al., 1960). The flight range during a 4-hour-period can be up to 1.5 km (Salama and Shoukry, 1972).

The moths have chemoreceptors on the ventral surface of the tarsi and the distal portion of the proboscis. These are highly sensitive and respond to a certain number of sugars mainly present in nectar. Pheromones (comprising of tetradecadien-1-ol acetates) have been isolated and successfully used in traps (Kehat and Gordon, 1975; Campion, 1977).

The minimum constant temperature for normal development in all stages is 13-14°C. Resistance to cold generally increases through the larval stages and is greatest in the pupal stage (Miller, 1977). At 18°C, egg, larval and pupal stages last 9, 34 and 27 days, respectively. At 36°C, egg, larval and pupal stages last 2, 10 and 8 days, respectively. Data on survival and development at different temperatures are provided by Sidibe and Lauge (1977), Baker and Miller (1974) and Ocete Rubio (1984). Information on development on different host crops is given by Dimetry and Nadia (1972), Hirakly and Bishara (1974), Abdal-Fattah (1977), Zoebelein (1977) and Badr et al. (1983). Studies in Egypt indicate that there are seven overlapping generations of S. littoralis when feeding on cotton, and that there are three peak infestation periods (El-Shafei et al., 1981; Khalifa et al., 1982).

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Andrallus spinidens Predator
Apanteles colemani Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Apanteles prodeniae Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Apanteles vitripennis Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Aspergillus flavus Antagonist
Bacillus cereus Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis aizawai Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis alesti Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis colmeri Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis entomocidus Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis galleriae Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis kenyae Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis sotto Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. dendrolimus Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis subtoxicus Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis thuringiensis Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis tolworthi Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Barylypa humeralis Parasite
Beauveria bassiana Pathogen
Bessa remota Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Blaptostethus piceus Predator
Blepharella lateralis Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Borrelinavirus litura Pathogen
Brachymeria excarinata Parasite
Brachymeria lasus Parasite
Bracon brevicornis Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Bracon hebetor Parasite Arthropods|Larvae Israel
Brinckochrysa scelestes Predator Karnataka
Calosoma blaptoides Predator Arthropods|Larvae Guam
Calosoma chlorostictum Predator Arthropods|Larvae
Campoletis chlorideae Parasite Arthropods|Larvae Maharashtra
Cantheconidia furcellata Predator
Charops obtusus Parasite
Cheiracanthium mildei Predator
Chelonus aegyptia Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Chelonus curvimaculatus Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Chelonus formosanus Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Chelonus inanitus Parasite Eggs; Arthropods|Larvae Egypt; Israel cabbages; polyphagous
Chelonus insularis Parasite Arthropods|Larvae Egypt; India clovers; polyphagous
Chelonus oculator Parasite Özkan and Özmen (2001)
Chrysoperla carnea Predator
Coccinella undecimpunctata Predator
Compsilura concinnata Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Copidosoma maculata Parasite
Cotesia marginiventris Parasite Arthropods|Larvae Egypt clovers
Cotesia ruficrus Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Cotesia telengai Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Cybocephalus micans Predator
cytoplasmic polyhedrosis viruses Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Damaster blaptoides Predator Arthropods|Larvae
Drino imberbis Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Eocanthecona furcellata Predator
Eriborus argenteopilosus Parasite
Euborellia annulipes Predator
Euplectrus laphygmae Parasite
Euplectrus platyhypenae Parasite Pakistan
Exorista larvarum Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Glyptapanteles africanus Parasite Arthropods|Larvae Gujarat
Glyptapanteles ashmeadi Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Gnathonarium exsciccatum Predator
Granulosis virus Pathogen
Harpactor costalis Predator
Heterorhabditis heliothidis Parasite
Heterorhabditis indicus Parasite
Homolobus truncatoides Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Hyposoter didymator Parasite Arthropods|Larvae Cape Verde Cajanus cajan; tomatoes
Hyposoter exiguae Parasite Egypt clovers
Labidura riparia Predator
Lasiochalcidia erythropus Parasite
Lecanicillium lecanii Pathogen
Lespesia archippivora Parasite Arthropods|Larvae Guam
Mallada boninensis Predator
Metarhizium anisopliae Pathogen Karnataka
Metaseiulus occidentalis Predator
Meteorus gyrator Parasite Arthropods|Larvae Egypt cabbages; Corchorus olitorius; Vigna unguiculata
Meteorus pulchricornis Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Meteorus rubens Parasite Arthropods|Larvae Israel
Microchelonus blackburni Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Microchelonus heliopae Parasite Arthropods|Larvae Gujarat
Microplitis demolitor Parasite Arthropods|Larvae Egypt clovers
Microplitis manilae Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Microplitis rufiventris Parasite Arthropods|Larvae Egypt; Israel
Nemorilla maculosa Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Nesidiocoris tenuis Predator
Nomuraea rileyi Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Nosema infuscatellus Pathogen
Nosema liturae Pathogen Guangzhou
Nosema mesnili Pathogen
Nucleopolyhedrosis virus Pathogen
Oncocephalus annulipes Predator
Orius albidipennis Predator
Orius laevigatus Predator
Ovomermis albicans Parasite
Paederus alfierii Predator
Palexorista laxa Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Peribaea orbata Parasite Arthropods|Larvae Egypt; New Caledonia cabbages; clovers; Corchorus olitorius; Malva pariflora; polyphagous
Peribaea palaestina Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Philonthus stragulatus Predator
Pimpla hypochondriaca Parasite
Podisus maculiventris Predator
Podisus sagitta Predator
Polistes chinensis chinensis Predator
Polistes jadwigae Predator
Pseudomonas aeruginosa Pathogen
Rhynocoris marginatus Predator
Sarcophaga misera Parasite
Scymnus interruptus Predator
Scymnus syriacus Predator
Serratia marcescens Pathogen
Spodophagus lepidopterae Parasite
Steinernema carpocapsae Parasite
Steinernema feltiae Parasite
Steinernema glaseri Parasite
Telenomus nawaii Parasite Eggs Guam; Samoa bananas; polyphagous
Telenomus remus Parasite Eggs Australia; Cape Verde; Guam; Gujarat; India; Israel; Karnataka; New Zealand; Pakistan Cajanus cajan; polyphagous; tobacco; tomatoes
Telenomus spodopterae Parasite Eggs Egypt clovers
Tetrastichus howardi Parasite Karnataka
Tetrastichus israeli Parasite
Trichogramma buesi Parasite Eggs
Trichogramma cacoeciae Parasite Eggs
Trichogramma chilonis Parasite Eggs Karnataka
Trichogramma evanescens Parasite Eggs
Trichogramma perkinsi Parasite Eggs
Trichogramma rhenana Parasite Eggs
Trichogrammatoidea armigera Parasite Eggs
Trichogrammatoidea australicum Parasite Eggs
Trichogrammatoidea lutea Parasite Eggs
Trichospilus pupivora Parasite
Ummeliata insecticeps Predator
Vairimorpha necatrix Pathogen
Xenorhabdus nematophilus Pathogen
Zele chlorophthalma Parasite Arthropods|Larvae Egypt cabbages; Corchorus olitorius
Zele nigricornis Parasite Arthropods|Larvae

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Natural enemies that have been observed in the field (Hegazi et al., 1977). Delvare and Rasplus (1994) described the pteromalid parasitoid, Spodophagus lepidopterae, from S. littoralis from Madagascar. Most work on the natural enemies of S. littoralis has been done in Egypt and Spain.

Generalist predators of S. littoralis include ladybirds, which feed on egg masses and young larvae, Paedeus fuscipes (staphylinid rover beetle), Orius albidipennis, Labidura riparia, Creontiades pallidus, Calosoma chlorostictum and Polistes gallicus.


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S. littoralis is one of the most destructive agricultural lepidopterous pests within its subtropical and tropical range. It can attack numerous economically important crops throughout the year (EPPO, 1997). On cotton, the pest may cause considerable damage by feeding on the leaves, fruiting points, flower buds and occasionally on bolls. When groundnuts are infested, larvae first select young folded leaves for feeding, but in severe attacks, leaves of any age are stripped off. Sometimes, even the ripening kernels in the pods in the soil may be attacked. Pods of cowpeas and the seeds they contain are also often badly damaged. In tomatoes, larvae bore into the fruit, which is thus rendered unsuitable for consumption. Numerous other crops are attacked, mainly on their leaves.

In Europe, damage caused by S. littoralis was minimal until about 1937. In 1949, there was a catastrophic population explosion in southern Spain, which affected lucerne, potatoes and other vegetable crops. At present, this noctuid is of great economic importance in Cyprus, Israel, Malta, Morocco and Spain (except the north). In Italy, it is especially important on protected crops of ornamentals and vegetables (Inserra and Calabretta, 1985; Nucifora, 1985). In Greece, S. littoralis causes slight damage in Crete on lucerne
and clover only.

In North Africa, tomato, Capsicum, cotton, maize and other vegetables are affected. In Egypt, it is one of the most serious cotton pests.

Detection and Inspection

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Pheromeone traps can be used to monitor the incidence of S. littoralis (Rizk et al., 1990). Kehat and Dunkelblum (1993) found that the minor sex pheromone component, (9Z,12Z)-9,12-tetradecadienyl acetate in addition to the major component (9Z,11Z)-9,11-tetradecadienyl acetate was required for in order to attract males.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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S. littoralis is often confused with S. litura, and the variability and similarity of the two species makes correct identification difficult and examination of adult genitalia is often the only certain method. For more information on morphological discrimination between the adult, pupal and larval stages of the two species, refer to Schmutterer (1969), Cayrol (1972), Mochida (1973) and Brown and Dewhurst (1975).

Although markings on larvae are variable, a bright-yellow stripe along the length of the dorsal surface is characteristic of S. litura.

On dissection of the genitalia, the ductus and ostium bursae are the same length in female S. littoralis, whereas they are different lengths in S. litura. The shape of the juxta in males in both species is very characteristic, and the ornamentation of the aedeagus vesica is also diagnostic.

An EPPO standard provides guidance for the identification of S. littoralis, S. litura, S. frugiperda and S. eridania (OEPP/EPPO, 2015).

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.

Biological Control

Numerous studies have been carried out on possible biological control of S. littoralis. Parasitoids (braconids, encyrtids, tachinids and ichneumonids) and predators have been extensively documented. A nuclear polyhedrosis virus has been evaluated against S. litura (Elnagar and El-Sheikh, 1990; Jones et al., 1994), whereas fungi and microsporidia have also been recorded as pathogens. Parasitic nematodes such as Neoaplectana carpocapsae have also been evaluated. However, direct use of these biocontrol agents has not been commercailized. Treatment with Bacillus thuringiensis has been used (Navon et al., 1983), but only some strains are effective as S. littoralis is resistant to many strains (Salama et al., 1989).

Chemical Control

The chemical control of S. littoralis has been extensively reported, especially in relation to cotton in Egypt. Numerous organophosphorus, synthetic pyrethroids and other insecticides have been used, with appearance of resistance and cross resistance in many cases (Issa et al., 1984a; 1984b; Abo-El-Ghar et al., 1986). However, compulsory limitation of the application of synthetic pyrethroids to one per year on cotton in Egypt has stopped the appearance of new resistance (Sawicki, 1986).

Chemicals used against species of Spodoptera also include insect growth regulators. There is interest, especially in India, in various antifeedant compounds or extracts, and in natural products, such as azadirachtin and neem extracts.


Integrated pest management techniques, favouring beneficial arthropods, are applied against S. littoralis on cotton in Egypt. These involve hand collection of egg masses, use of microbial pesticides and insect growth regulators and slow-release pheromone formulations for mating disruption. If these measures are taken, relatively few applications of conventional insecticides are necessary (Campion and Nesbitt, 1982; Hosny et al., 1983; Campion and Hosny, 1987). Damage thresholds have been established by Hosny et al. (1986). Pheromones have also been used for mass trapping using a lure and kill strategy (McVeigh and Bettany, 1987) and for monitoring populations. Souka (1980) experimented with irradiation for sterile-insect release, but this technique has not been widely applied in the field.

Phytosanitary Measures

For planting material, EPPO recommends (OEPP/EPPO, 1990) absence of the pests from the place of production during the last 3 months, or treatment of the consignment. For cut flowers, pre-export inspection is considered sufficient.

Cold storage of chrysanthemum and carnation cuttings for at least 10 days at a temperature not exceeding 1.7°C will kill all stages of S. littoralis, but may damage the plants. Storage at slightly higher temperatures or shorter durations does not eradicate S. littoralis, but differences in response to cold have been observed both between strains and within developmental stages of the pest (Powell and Gostick, 1971; Miller, 1976). Irradiation has been investigated as a treatment for cut flowers (Navon et al., 1988). For cut chrysanthemum flowers, Wang and Lin (1984) suggest enclosing buds in perforated polythene bags to exclude the pest and dipping the cut stems in insecticide solutions.


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Kuklinski F, Borgemeister C, 2002. Cotton pests and their natural enemies in Madagascar. Journal of Applied Entomology. 126 (2/3), 55-65. DOI:10.1046/j.1439-0418.2002.00622.x

Lanzoni A, Bazzocchi G G, Reggiori F, Rama F, Sannino L, Maini S, Burgio G, 2012. Spodoptera littoralis male capture suppression in processing spinach using two kinds of synthetic sex-pheromone dispensers. Bulletin of Insectology. 65 (2), 311-318.

Mailafiya D M, Degri M M, Maina Y T, Gadzama U N, Galadima I B, 2014. Preliminary studies on insect pest incidence on tomato in Bama, Borno State, Nigeria. International Letters of Natural Sciences. 45-54.

Mobouna G M, Lenga A, Latham P, Kinkela T, Mbuta A K K, Bouyer T, Roulon-Doko P, Malaisse F, 2016. Key to the identification of the final instar caterpillars eaten in Congo-Brazzaville. (Clé de détermination des chenilles de dernier stade consommées au Congo-Brazzaville). Geo-Eco-Trop: Revue Internationale de Géologie, de Géographie et d'Écologie Tropicales. 40 (2), 75-103.

Murlis J, Bettany B W, Kelley J, Martin L, 1982. The analysis of flight paths of male Egyptian cotton leafworm moths, Spodoptera littoralis, to a sex pheromone source in the field. Physiological Entomology. 7 (4), 435-441. DOI:10.1111/j.1365-3032.1982.tb00319.x

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Roméo H C, Champlain D L, Chantal A D, Stephan E A P, 2015. Diversity and agronomic status of tomato and pepper fruit pests in two agro-ecological zones of southern Cameroon: Western Highland and the southern Plateau of Cameroon. African Journal of Agricultural Research. 10 (11), 1224-1232.

Sadek M M, 2011. Complementary behaviors of maternal and offspring Spodoptera littoralis: oviposition site selection and larval movement together maximize performance. Journal of Insect Behavior. 24 (1), 67-82. DOI:10.1007/s10905-010-9238-4

Schmutterer H, 1971. Contribution to the knowledge of the crop pest fauna in Ethiopia. Zeitschrift fur Angewandte Entomologie. 67 (4), 371-389.

Sneh B, Gross S, 1981. Toxicity of avocado leaves (Persea americana) to young larvae of Spodoptera littoralis Boisd. (Lep., Noctuidae). Zeitschrift fur Angewandte Entomologie. 92 (4), 420-422.

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UK, CAB International, 1967. Spodoptera littoralis. [Distribution map]. In: Distribution Maps of Plant Pests, Wallingford, UK: CAB International. Map 232. DOI:10.1079/DMPP/20056600232

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Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS) source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

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