Fruit Piercing Moth: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell

Fruit piercing moths are a notorious pest that can cause significant damage to various fruit crops. They are known for their ability to puncture the skin of ripe fruits, leaving them susceptible to rot and decay. This pest is particularly problematic for fruit growers, as it can result in substantial economic losses.

The life cycle of a fruit piercing moth consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. During the larval stage, the caterpillars mainly feed on the leaves of host plants, while the adult moths are responsible for piercing the fruit. Some common fruit targets of these pests include oranges, mangoes, and bananas.

Controlling fruit piercing moths can be quite challenging due to their nocturnal nature and their ability to fly long distances. Growers often rely on a combination of chemical treatments, pheromone traps, and habitat modification to protect their fruit crops. However, it’s important to note that each control method has its pros and cons, and an integrated approach is typically the most effective strategy.

Overview of Fruit Piercing Moth

Eudocima Fullonia

Eudocima Fullonia, also known as the fruit-piercing moth, is a moth species that causes damage to various fruits by piercing their skin to feed on the juice. This feeding activity results in:

  • Fruit spoilage
  • Economic losses for farmers

Eudocima Phalonia

Another species of fruit-piercing moth is the Eudocima Phalonia. Similar to Eudocima Fullonia, this species also causes harm to numerous fruit crops. Although both species cause damage to fruits, their geographical distributions differ:

Species Distribution
Eudocima Fullonia Asia, Africa, Australasia
Eudocima Phalonia Southeast Asia, Pacific Islands

Other Eudocima Species

There are several other Eudocima species that are also categorized as fruit-piercing moths. These moths share some common features:

  • Nocturnal behavior
  • Strong proboscis for piercing fruit skin

Each Eudocima species can have varying impacts on different fruit crops. However, they all pose challenges to fruit farmers and the agriculture industry as a whole.

Distribution and Habitat

Asia and Australia

Fruit Piercing Moth, also known as Eudocima fullonia, can be found in various regions of Asia and Australia. Its distribution ranges from Sri Lanka, India, and Southeast Asia to Queensland and New South Wales in Australia. Their habitat includes lowland forests and cultivated areas. They are particularly abundant in tropical and subtropical regions.

In Australia, the moth is more commonly found on the east coast, where conditions like humidity and temperature are favorable for its growth. In Queensland, it is a significant pest in fruit orchards.

Pacific Islands

The Fruit Piercing Moth is also present in the Pacific Islands. They are known to inhabit areas such as:

  • Hawaii
  • Micronesia
  • Fiji
  • Solomon Islands
  • Samoa

These environments, with their tropical climates, provide ideal conditions for the moths to thrive.

New Caledonia

New Caledonia, a French territory located in the Pacific, has reported the presence of Fruit Piercing Moths. The island’s climate and flora create a conducive environment for the moth, allowing it to spread and persist in the region.

Life Cycle and Biology

Eggs

  • Laid on host plants
  • Hatch in a few days

The Fruit Piercing Moth begins its life as an egg. Female moths lay these eggs on the leaves of host plants, such as fruit trees. The eggs hatch within a few days, giving birth to the larval stage of the moth’s life cycle1.

Larvae and Pupae

  • Several larval instars
  • Feed on host plants
  • Form cocoons

The larvae, also known as caterpillars, pass through several larval instars as they grow2. During this period, they feed on the foliage of their host plants. After reaching a certain size, the larvae form cocoons and enter the pupal stage3.

Example Host Plants:

  • Citrus
  • Mango
  • Tomato

Table 1: Larval Instars Comparison

Instar Size (mm) Duration (days)
1st 1-2 3-5
2nd 3-4 4-6
3rd 5-7 5-7
4th 8-10 6-9

Adult Moths

  • Active at night
  • Feed on fruit

Once the pupa has fully developed within the cocoon, an adult moth emerges4. These moths are primarily nocturnal and are attracted to the scent of ripe fruit. They use their sharp mouthparts to pierce the fruit’s skin and consume its juice5.

Characteristics of Adult Fruit Piercing Moths:

  • Wingspan: 40-55 mm
  • Distinctive markings and color patterns
  • Feathery antennae

Impact on Fruit Crops

Fruit Damage

Fruit piercing moths cause significant damage to various fruit crops. They use their sharp mouthparts to puncture the skin of fruits, leading to:

  • Rotting: The wound created by the moth allows the entry of bacteria and fungi, leading to rotting of the affected fruit.
  • Loss of healthy and immature fruit: Both healthy and immature fruits are susceptible to moth attacks, leading to reduced overall yield.

Examples of commonly affected fruits include citrus, guava, papaya, pineapple, and tomatoes.

Economic Losses

The widespread damage caused by fruit piercing moths leads to substantial economic losses for farmers and the agricultural industry. These losses stem from:

  • Reduced yield: Damage to both ripe and immature fruits results in a decrease in the overall crop yield.
  • Lower quality produce: Affected fruits suffer from rotting and become unfit for consumption or sale.

Susceptible Fruits

Some fruits are more prone to fruit piercing moth attacks. Their susceptibility may vary due to factors like skin thickness or attractiveness to the moth:

Fruit Susceptibility
Citrus High
Guava High
Papaya High
Pineapple Medium
Passion Fruit Low
Peach Low
Pomegranate Low
Litchi Chinensis Low

Citrus crops are particularly vulnerable to fruit piercing moths, while fruits such as passion fruit, peach, pomegranate, and litchi chinensis have a lower susceptibility.

Control Methods

Biological Control

The Fruit Piercing Moth (FPM), which belongs to the family Noctuidae, is an invasive pest affecting orchards. One effective way to control them is using biological methods, such as the parasitic wasp Ooencyrtus sp. These wasps can help reduce FPM populations in orchards by targeting their eggs and larvae1. Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of using biological control:

Pros:

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Targets specific pests
  • Reduces the need for chemical pesticides

Cons:

  • May take time to establish
  • The effectiveness can be limited by external factors, such as weather

Chemical Control

In some cases, chemical control methods may be necessary to protect orchards from FPM infestations. This approach typically involves the use of pesticides, which can be applied at different stages of pest development2. Although this method can effectively reduce FPM populations, it must be used carefully to avoid harming beneficial insects and causing environmental damage. It’s essential to follow guidelines and recommendations for safely using chemical control methods in orchards.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Integrated Pest Management is a comprehensive approach that combines biological and chemical control practices to manage pests effectively. This method aims to minimize the damage caused by pests while reducing risks to people and the environment^[3^]. Here’s an example of IPM strategies that could be used in orchards:

  1. Monitoring pest populations to determine the need for controls
  2. Using biological methods, such as introducing Ooencyrtus sp, whenever possible
  3. Utilizing chemical control only when necessary and following recommended guidelines

This approach helps minimize the impact on non-target insects and the environment while effectively managing FPM populations. By using IPM, orchard owners can maintain a balance between pest control and environmental health.

Parasites and Diseases

Egg Parasitoids

Egg parasitoids are organisms that live on and feed off the eggs of fruit piercing moths like Eudocima salaminia. Some examples of egg parasitoids include:

  • Trichogrammatidae: A family of tiny wasps that lay their eggs inside the eggs of fruit piercing moths, preventing their development.
  • Encyrtidae: Another family of wasps specializing in parasitizing moth eggs, contributing to the natural control of their populations.

Wasps

There are various species of wasps that can attack fruit piercing moths, such as:

  • Braconidae: A family of wasps that are known to parasitize the larval stage of the fruit piercing moths.
  • Ichneumonidae: These wasps lay their eggs into the larvae or pupae of the moths, effectively killing them as their offspring consume the host.

Fungi

Fungal infections can cause significant damage to fruit piercing moths, particularly during their larval stage. For instance:

  • Entomopathogenic fungi: These fungi infect and kill insects like fruit piercing moths, helping control their populations naturally.

Bacteria

Bacteria can also play a role in the control of fruit piercing moths. Some examples include:

  • Bacillus thuringiensis: A soil-dwelling bacteria that produces toxins harmful to moths and other insects, often used as a biological control agent in agriculture.

Comparison of Parasites and Diseases

Entity Targets Effect on Fruit Piercing Moths
Egg Parasitoids Moth eggs Prevent development
Wasps Larvae or pupae Parasitize and kill
Fungi Larval stage Infect and kill
Bacteria Moths and other insects Produce toxic substances

Host Range

  • Fruit piercing moths are known to feed on a variety of plant species, such as Erythrina and Menispermaceae.
  • Specific moth species may prefer certain host plants, like Stephania japonica for E. jordani, and Sarcopetalum harveyanum for E. materna.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.example.com/fruit-piercing-moth-eggs 2

  2. https://www.example.com/fruit-piercing-moth-larvae 2

  3. https://www.example.com/fruit-piercing-moth-pupae

  4. https://www.example.com/fruit-piercing-moth-adults

  5. https://www.example.com/fruit-piercing-moth-feeding

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Unknown Caterpillar from Florida on Annona salzmannii is Fruit Piercing Moth Caterpillar

 

Caterpillar ID
August 16, 2009
Hello bugman,
I was hoping you could help me with an ID of this Caterpillar. I took this shot yesterday in Coral Springs Florida, US. It has been eating the plant you see it on (Annona salzmannii ) a fruit tree from South America. I’ve seen a couple of these in different parts of the county but they are always on plant in the Annonaceae family.
Thanks for your help
Eric Bronson
Coral Springs, Florida

Unknown Caterpillar from Florida
Fruit Piercing Moth Caterpillar from Florida

Hi Eric,
Our quick search did not turn up an ID for this distinctive caterpillar.  We will try to do additional research, but for now, we will post your image in the hope that one of our readers can supply an answer.

Cool, I suspect it may be a new invasive species. I did my homework before I submitted it to you, and I couldn’t find anything about this online or in my reference books. I hope we can figure out what it is. That I keep finding them on Annonaceae plants may be a good clue.
Thanks again for your help
Eric Bronson

Hi again Eric,
You should post a comment on our posting of your caterpillar, so if anyone writes in with an identification, you will receive a copy of the comment.

Identification courtesy of Karl
Eric:
I am fairly certain this is a Fruit-piercing Moth caterpillar (Noctuoidea: Erebidae: Calpinae) in the genus Gonodonta. Alternative taxonomic systems place this genus in the sub-family Catocalinae. Caterpillars of this group tend to be variable and several species look similar to begin with, so nailing down the species is difficult. To me it looks most similar to G. bidens, but it could also be G. pyrgo or G. incurvata. If it is any of those three then it does belong in Florida. If it is a similar species from further south (there are a few) then it is a visitor, or perhaps an invasive. One example of a G. bidens caterpillar can be found at: http://www.tulane.edu/~ldyer/lsacat/index_frames.htm (click on ‘Noctuidae’ to get to a species list).  K

Hi again Eric:
I forgot to mention that if you follow the link provided you will see that (in Costa Rica) the Annonaceae are given as host plants for G. bidens. That was a good and useful observation on your part. K

Letter 2 – Fruit Piercing Moth Caterpillar

 

Subject:  caterpillar?
Geographic location of the bug:  near Luang Prabang, Laos
Date: 08/07/2018
Time: 09:46 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I found this thing that looks like a caterpillar hanging on a tree at Kuang Si Waterfalls, Laos. (Date: 5 Aug 2018). Couldn’t find anything about this!
How you want your letter signed:  Elisabeth

Fruit Piercing Moth Caterpillar

Dear Elisabeth,
We quickly identified your Fruit Piercing Moth Caterpillar in the genus
Eudocima thanks to images on the Australian site Butterfly House where Eudocima fullonia ranges, and the site indicates:  “The species occurs in Asia and the south-west Pacific, for example: Hawaii, New Caledonia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Thailand,” which probably means Laos as well.  There are also some nice images of the caterpillar on FlickRiver.  We have several images on our site of Fruit Piercing Moths, but to the best of our memory (we have been posting for 16 years) this is the first image we have posted of the Caterpillar.

 

Letter 3 – Butterfly Moth, not Fruit Piercing Moth

 

French mystery moth.
Location:  Montpelier, southern France
July 27, 2010 12:21 pm
My sister recently found this moth in her garden. She lives near Montpelier in southern France. Could you identify it please,as it is not listed in any of my moth reference books.
Thankyou.
Nigel Harland

Possibly Fruit Piercing Moth

Hi Nigel,
We believe you may have photographed a Fruit Piercing Moth based on its appearance, though we are not certain if Fruit Piercing Moths are found in France.  Here is a link to an Australian species.  We are posting your letter and photos in the hope that one of our readers can supply any supporting or contradicting information.

Possibly Fruit Piercing Moth

Karl researches the Answer
Hi Daniel and Nigel:
This was very tricky one because it does look like an Underwing or Fruit-piercing Moth – and it is in the wrong hemisphere! I was able to track it down only because it reminded me of a species of Castnia that I photographed in Costa Rica last winter. It is actually a Castniid moth (Castniidae), a small and mostly neotropical family of day-flying moths (a few species in Australia and Asia). They are also called Butterfly Moths and are often mistaken for butterflies. The species is Paysandisia archon and according to Wikipedia:  “It is native to Uruguay and central Argentina and has been accidentally introduced to Europe, where it is spreading rapidly. It is considered the only member of the genus Paysandisia.”  The larvae are palm borers and are considered a serious pest. The spread of this species is being closely tracked in France and several other Mediterranean countries and it is likely that someone may be interested in this sighting. Regards. Karl

Hello Daniel and Karl,
Thankyou both so much for getting a positive identification on this moth, it appears to be quite a rarity.
Thanks again,
Nigel Harland.

Letter 4 – Fruit Piercing Moth and Cocoon from Israel: Green Drab Moth

 

a moth?
January 24, 2010
well i found 2 similar caterpillars about 2 months ago so i took them to my house oh and i took the leafs from the near trees and i err raised them until they became cocoons and well one cocoon went missing while the other one is still in its cocoon and one day there was a moth i think, that was on the cocoon so i wonder is this what came out of the missing one if so why was it on the other’s cocoon…
Victor R
west israel

Green Drab Moth

Hi Victor,
Your moth resembles a Fruit Piercing Moth, Eudocima materna, we have posted in the past.  It is definitely a different species, but we wonder if it is related.  We hope one of our readers can assist in this identification.

Cocoon: Fruit Piercing Moth

Hi Daniel and Victor:
This is indeed a fruit-piercing moth, probably Ophiusa tirhaca (Noctuidae: Catocalinae). I don’t know if it has a common name in Israel but elsewhere it is referred to as the Green Drab Moth. It has quit a wide distribution, including southern Europe, Africa and Asia, and it has been introduced to Australia. As the name of the group suggests, the adult moths feed by piercing various fruits, especially soft fruits. The larvae feed on the leaves of a variety of trees and shrubs and can be a pest on pistachio trees (including in Israel).   Regards.
Karl

Letter 5 – Unknown Caterpillar from Japan is a Fruit Piercing Moth, Adris tyrannus amurensis

 

What is this big juicy brown, vivid green and iridescent blue caterpillar?!
I live in Hokkaido in northern Japan, and yesterday I found a bush that is absolutely COVERED with these caterpillars. The leaves in the photo are about half my palm size and the caterpillar is as long and as thick as my thumb.
They are fleshy, not hairy, with two bright yellow, black and blue eye spots, and bright iridescent blue speckles all over them. I think they are a moth of some kind but can’t get any closer than that. Help!
Vicky in Hokkaido

hi Vicky,
This is most certainly a Sphinx Caterpillar or Hawk Moth Caterpillar in the family Sphingidae. We located a website of Sphingidae from Japan, but it is difficult to search and does not have caterpillar images. We have contacted Bill Oehlke to see if he recognizes the species. This is a gorgeous caterpillar.

Update: (08/27/2008)
Daniel,
Beautiful image, but I am not sure it is a Sphingid, as pose with posterior end raised is not typical of any Sphingidae as far as I know.
Bill Oehlke

Update: (08/27/2008)
Thank you for your very quick reply! You are right, it is gorgeous, but I have a surfeit of them – they are DEVOURING one of my bushes in my garden! My Japanese-reading son got out some bug books and he found out that it is an “Akebi Konoha” in Japanese, and its latin name is Adris tyrannus amurenseis, which as far as I can tell doesn’t have a common name. As I am ignorant about moth varieties this could well be a sphynx caterpillar…… On Googling a bit more and looking in the dictionary, we found that Akebi is the name of the plant it lives on, which is translated as a Chocolate Vine in English, and yes, that is what they are chomping on! So it seems to be a fairly specialised thing…. We found a Japanese site here, with photos of more caterpillars and the adult moth – DOES it have a common name? http://aoki2.si.gunma-u.ac.jp/youtyuu/HTMLs/akebikonoha020921.html Thanks again for your help – I hate not knowing what things are, yet living in Japan it’s very hard for me to look stuff up intelligently and often the western websites don’t have the exact same things on them. I’m glad too that you found it interesting. They really are beautiful, if not a bit revolting en masse!
Vicky in Hokkaido

Hi Vicky,
We were incorrect about this being a Sphinx Moth. It is a Fruit Piercing Moth.

Letter 6 – Fruit Piercing Moth Caterpillar from Malaysia

 

Unidentified wood insects
February 11, 2010
My lecturer asked whether does anyone knows what insect is this as he doesnt even know what it is due to the weirdness of the insects.Please help?What is this insect then?
TheSafira
Malaysia

Fruit Piercing Moth Caterpillar

Dear TheSafira,
This appears to be a caterpillar, and possibly a Noctuid or Owlet Moth.  How large is that Caterpillar?  Though it appears enormous, we suspect the use of a wide angle lens has distorted the perspective.  What plant was it found on?

Karl Identifies this Fruit Piercing Moth Caterpillar
Hi Daniel and TheSafira:
This looks like another fruit piercing moth (Noctuidae: Catocalinae).  The three functional prolegs (the first pair is rudimentary) are characteristic and the caterpillars typically move in a semi-looping motion. With the striped head, pale stripes along the body, darker dorsal spots above the prolegs, and the two small yellowish protuberances near the back end this looks very much like Ophiusa (=Thyas) coronata. The larvae apparently reach a maximum length of 70 mm, considerably shorter than the impression given by the photo, but I assume you are correct about the lens effect. I can’t be certain about the species, but if it is O. coronata, the larvae feed on the leaves of Sea Almond, apparently Malaysia’s most abundant urban tree, and the adults are a pest on citrus fruits.  Regards.
Karl

Fruit Piercing Moth Caterpillar

Dear bugman,i think the caterpillar is around 10-15cm long?But im sorry as i cant specified which plant that my lecturer found this caterpillar on.Anyway,i love this website.This is awesome!
TheSafira
Malaysia

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

14 thoughts on “Fruit Piercing Moth: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell”

  1. Eric:

    I am fairly certain this is a Fruit-piercing Moth caterpillar (Noctuoidea: Erebidae: Calpinae) in the genus Gonodonta. Alternative taxonomic systems place this genus in the sub-family Catocalinae. Caterpillars of this group tend to be variable and several species look similar to begin with, so nailing down the species is difficult. To me it looks most similar to G. bidens, but it could also be G. pyrgo or G. incurvata. If it is any of those three then it does belong in Florida. If it is a similar species from further south (there are a few) then it is a visitor, or perhaps an invasive. One example of a G. bidens caterpillar can be found at: http://www.tulane.edu/~ldyer/lsacat/index_frames.htm (click on ‘Noctuidae’ to get to a species list). K

    Reply
  2. Hi again Eric:

    I forgot to mention that if you follow the link provided you will see that (in Costa Rica) the Annonaceae are given as host plants for G. bidens. That was a good and useful observation on your part. K

    Reply
  3. Thanks,
    I hope they don’t decide to make a home in my yard. I’ve seen them at my friend Noel’s house in Coral Springs (where the photo was taken), Jeff’s in Tamarac and the RFVC’s (Rare Fruit & Vegetable Council of Broward) 208 Garden. We all grow many species of Annonas and Annonaceae. They don’t seem to be a real pest though unless it’s a seedling. This may be why “They do not cause significant damage because they are heavily parasitized by a braconid wasp.” from Insect/Mite Management in Annona spp. (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/IG166) University of Florida

    Reply
  4. Hi again Eric:

    Gonodonta nutrix is certainly a good possibility. I had it on my short list for a while but I couldn’t find any descriptions or images with the striped/vermicular background pattern that is evident in your photo. They generally appear to be black or dark brown, with yellow or orange spots. Hence my suggestion that it was likely one of the other species which do show striped patterns with reddish spots. However, I can’t conclude that a striped pattern does not exist for G. nutrix as well, and I couldn’t find much information on the other species (possibly an indication that they are less of a nuisance). There is an excellent site at: http://janzen.sas.upenn.edu/caterpillars/database.lasso that has caterpillar photos of a number of Gonodonta species (search for Gonodonta). If you are interested in more information about G. nutrix the USDA has posted an interesting report (pdf) entitled “Owlet Caterpillars of Eastern North America (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)” that can be accessed at: http://www.eeb.uconn.edu/people/wagner/USDA%20Noctuid%20Guide%20October%202008.pdf . It provides a good description of the G. nutrix caterpillar, as well as life history and pest status information. Interestingly, it suggests that the fruit-piercing adults are a greater threat to orchards than the leaf-munching caterpillars. Good luck! K

    Reply
  5. err its me again i looked up a bit and i found this http://bugguide.net/node/view/124007
    >< well the second caterpillar didn't make his cocoon so well and the inside was exactly this. and by the way it bended the leaf as the post shows (but with a different leaf) it must be this so is there a possibility that the moth shown is a cannibal moth or something since he was ON the cocoon…

    Reply
  6. O NO im sorry for some reason i fiercely opened the pretty cocoon in the picture and i just found out that IT IS THE MOTH FROM IT (since the brown real cocoon inside is empty) I just didn’t see the escape hole out of it i guess..>< please ignore my last comment^^" IM A DADDY =D.

    Reply
    • Dear tonton,
      Thank you for the link. We had an update to the posting that already identified it as Ophiusa tirhaca. Were you able to view that update? We ask because we recently made some changes to our site to accommodate mobile device users and we are not certain if we have worked out all the proverbial “bugs”. Thanks for your input.

      Reply
  7. I found this page as I have just had a moth that matches this description in my kitchen last night. Usually I don’t really bother about them as I am actually scared of anything that has wings lol…but when this moth was flying, I thought it looked like a massive Red Admiral (it is about an inch 1/2 long and wingspan has to be about 3ins) but then when it settled and closed its wings, it just looked like a huge regular brown hairy moth. Having read these comments, I feel I still maybe wrong as I live in Surrey in the UK. If there is any connection, the weather has just turned quite cold and is raining heavy and somehow this little fella found his way to my partners 7th floor apartment window?! Its also very lazy – 10pm last night he was flapping around frantically….and now at 15.30 he hasn’t moved from the kitchen door frame since 06.30…which suits me fine as its the partner now who has to do the dinner and make the coffee all day….I’m not going back in there until this creature has moved out!!!!

    Reply
    • UK Moths has a page set up for the Butterfly Moth, which is native to South America but introduced to the Mediterranean region. There is no sighting information, which indicates it there is a strong possibility that it could be found in the UK since it has been reported from France. According to the Food and Environment Research Agency: “In August 2002, a large adult moth was observed in a private garden in west Sussex. Martin Honey (Natural History Museum, London) confirmed its identification as the South American palm borer Paysandisia archon Burmeister (Lepidoptera: Castniidae). This was the first discovery of this non-indigenous pest in the UK. Currently on the EPPO Alert List, this serious pest of palms is established in parts of
      Southern Europe. The European Commission are in the process of introducing emergency measures to prevent the further spread of P. archon within the community.”

      Reply
  8. Just come back from Mallorca in Spanish Balearics. Saw at least two of these Butterfly Moths in Boquer Valley in NE of island.

    Reply
  9. One appeared in our garden today 16 july at st barthelemy d,agenais, 47350,lot et garonne. We have no palm trees to worry about!⁰

    Reply

Leave a Comment