Aphomia sabella

Aphomia sabella Hampson

(Formerly known as Arenipses sabella Hampson)

Taxonomic placing: Insecta, Holometabola, Lepidoptera, Pyralidae.

Common name: Greater date moth.

Geographical distribution: North Africa, Iran. Iraq, Middle East.

Host plants: The date palm, Phoenix dactylifera Linnaeus.

Morphology: The adult is a large (1.5-2.0 cm), grayish moth; the color of the larvae is dark grey to rose-like and they reach a length of 2.5 cm.

Life cycle: At 30°C a generation is completed in 5-6 weeks, and the adults live for another week. Each female lays 200-440 eggs, mostly at night. In Israel the pest raises four annual generations, but only two (in the spring, when they attack the new growth, and in the autumn, when they feed on fruit) are of economic importance. The larvae of the autumn generation pass the winter in diapause, emerging in the spring.

Economic importance: The larvae feed on young leaves, fluorescences, green fruit and also burrow into fronds. Infested fronds may deteriorate, the damage being enhanced by the invasion of secondary plant pathogens. The extent of injury is variable, severe in certain years, negligible in others. In Israel most damage has been reported from northern date plantations.


Monitoring: The presence of larvae, which may tunnel up to a length of 10 cm, can be determined from the excreted webbing that include the brown fecal pellets.

Cultural control: Damage (of this and other fruit moths) may partially be reduced by removing affected branches and sanitation, by wrapping the date bunches in nets and by early harvesting.

Chemical control: Although the spring-generation insects cause most of the damage, they are well hidden within the trees and thus seldom killed by chemicals. They are, however, affected by pesticides applied against other pests, like Batrachedra amydraula Meyrick and Coccotrypes dactyliperda Fabricius. The autumn-generation insects are controlled by pyrethroids, when applied against other date moths. Pyrethroids applied in Egypt reduced the pest populations by 75%, whereas biopesticides reduced them only by 70% .


Donahaye, E. and Calderon, M. 1964. Survey of insects infesting dates in storage in Israel. Israel Journal of Agricultural Research 14: 97-100.

Bader, E.-S., A.F.B., Gameel, S.M.M. and Sayed, A.A. 2010. Control of the greater date moth, Arenipses sabella Hampson (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) using bio pesticides. Acta Horticulturae 882: 995-999.

Imam, A.I. 2012. Evaluation of some integrated managements to combat the Greater date moth, Arenipses sabella Hmps. (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae), on date palm trees under siwa oasis conditions in Egypt. Egyptian Journal of Biological Pest Control 2: 157-160.

Kehat, M. and Greenberg, S. 1969. The biology and phenology of Arenipses sabella Hmps. and Cadra figulilella (Gregson) (Lepidoptera, Pyralidae) on dates in Israel. Bulletin of Entomological Research 58: 411-419.

Carpenter, J. B. and Elmer, H. S. 1978. Pests and diseases of the date palm. USDA.Agriculture Handbook No. 527.

Websites: https://www.google.co.il/search?q=Aphomia+sabella&biw=1536&bih=836&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0CCUQ7AlqFQoTCKT-8peO08gCFcuYGgodWdkIjQ&dpr=1.25

Dr. Daniel Blumberg. vpblum@volcani.agri.gov.il