We need to be on the lookout for a newly introduced pest in Florida. The European Pepper Moth, Duponchelia fovealis, was detected in two nurseries in Orange County in October 2010. This small brown moth attacks herbaceous ornamentals (including Anemone, Anthurium, Begonia, Cyclamen, Euphorbia, Gerbera, Kalanchoe, Limonium, Rosa), vegetable crops, herbs, and some aquatic plants grown both in the field and in greenhouses.
According to the Division of Plant Industry (DPI), the moth has been detected in 14 other states and likely entered Florida through transport of infected plants or other nursery material. The DPI pest alert can be found at http://bit.ly/kTD1Bc.
Duponchelia larvae feed on all parts of the plant and they can burrow into stems and even in roots near the soil line. A rather unusual behavior is that the caterpillars also feed on decaying plant material. In warm humid climates they are found mainly on outdoor plants, often in the damp lower portions near the soil. Look for signs of feeding, stem boring, webbing, or frass deep in the canopy.
Larvae have a shiny dark heads with creamy white to light brown bodies. Adults have a wingspan of about 1 inch. The forewings are gray-brown in color with 2 yellowish white transverse lines. The outermost of these lines has a pronounced “finger” that points towards the edge of the wing. Adults are strong fliers capable of traveling up to 60 miles on their own.
Should you detect this pest, please contact your local county extension office.