University of Maryland Extension

New Invasive Pest Reported in Maryland: The European Pepper Moth

Author: 
Dr. Gerald Brust, IPM Vegetable Specialist
European Pepper Moth

July 2, 2013

Stanton Gill has identified a new invasive pest of ornamentals and vegetables in Maryland: the European pepper moth Duponchelia fovealis. The European pepper moth was found on petunia and geraniums from a wholesale greenhouse operation in Anne Arundel County in the last 10 days. The moth has spread around the U.S. and Canada (but only in the GH) since first being reported in 2004. The Government considered putting it under quarantine, but it spread so rapidly the idea was abandoned. It is not known yet if this pest has or will become established in the landscape, or is just found in the nursery and containerized vegetable trade. Based on the climate of its native habitat (Southern Mediterranean), this pest has a chance of becoming established in states along the west coast and the southeastern U.S. How far north the pest could move up the SE coastline is not known at this time. This caterpillar feeds on a wide range of plants including ornamentals but also on several vegetables including tomato, pepper, squash and strawberries.  The larvae feed on roots, leaves, flowers, buds and fruit. On leaves, this feeding damage appears as rounded or crescent-shaped holes on the outside of the leaves, but eventually the whole leaf is eaten. Usually the leaves that are attacked are at the base of the plant. Late instar larvae also can burrow into the plant stem (pepper, tomato, squash). I do not think this insect will become established in our area, but it may be a problem for some vegetable growers during the summer when it escapes from a greenhouse operation. If you see any odd leaf feeding or stem boring and the larva looks something like the picture below give me a call at 301-627-8440 or jbrust@umd.edu.

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