Ectomyelois ceratoniae (Zeller)
(Formerly in the genus Spectrobates)
Common name: Carob moth.
Geographical distribution: Mediterranean basin to Iran, South Africa, Australia and the Americas.
Morphology: The adult moth is about 0.8-1.0 cm in length, dark-grey, the forewings bear two transverse whitish stripes. The fully grown larva is 16-18 mm long, pink, has a brown head and with segmental protuberances that bear small setae.
Life cycle: Females of the first generation lay their eggs on the developing pods of A. farnesiana and of carobs, later ovipositing also on dates, figs and citrus fruit. A female lays 100-350 eggs in about one month, it fecundity being affected by yhe host plsants. The hatched larvae enter into any available openings or cracks in the fruit, wherein they feed without harming the seeds. They often remain there even after harvest, thus invading storage facilities. The pest develops (especially in storage) throughout the entire year, pupating where they had fed. During summer the pest oviposits on citrus fruit, preferring grapefruits, especially when infested by mealybugs, to whose honeydew the moths are attracted, or on fruits that touch each other. The larvae burrow into the fruit but cannot complete their development and die. Almonds are attacked only in mid-summer, after their hulls had split and/or they had become. The pest completes 4-5 annual generations, each requring 1.5-5.0 months. Acacia pods and left-over almonds serve as overwintering sites, within which the larvae hibernate. Females attract males by a pheromone that is usually produced from about midnight till dawn, most oviposition occurring right after sunset.
Economic importance: The larvae are serious pests of almonds, carobs, dates as well as various nuts in storage. Damage is due to burrowing within these fruits, with attendant webs, frass, molts and molds. As the pest can live in stores the year around, the longer a certain infested commodity is stored, the greater the injury. In the field E. ceratoniae may be a pest of citrus, figs and dates. Injury is due to larval burrowing around the calyx (button), which causes premature yellowing and fruit drop (up to 10%). Infested fruits secrete a sticky gum that kills the larvae. Thus the carob moth is a fruit moth.
Monitoring: Sex phromone traps are placed in date orcahrds to follow the pest’s populations.
Cultural control: As the pest develops on A. farnesiana pods the year around, the planting of these trees as fences around citrus orchards should be discouraged. Controlled atmospheres (lower oxygen levels along with elevated CO2 concentrations) greatly curtail pest development. Almond Infestation can be reduced by early harvesting, before the first generation moths can attack them and by removing dropped carobs.
Sterile male technique (SIT): This approach is being tried in Iran in orderr to control the moth attcking pomegranates.
Chemical control: Pyrethroids can control the carob moth attacking palm dates in the field, if applied during fruit color change (mid-August) and 3-4 weeks later. Best results may be obtained if the pesticides are sprayed prior to moth oviposition, right after sunset. In plantations that protect date bunches by mesh nettings, the pesticide is applied just prior to covering. Organophosphate sprays aimed against mealybugs may also control the carob moth on grapefruit, but only as long as the pest had not penetrated into the fruit. The organophosphate malathion can protect dates in storage. Essential oils are also very efficient in date palm groves.
Biological control: Several indigenous and introduced hymenopterous parastoids kill about 35% of the carob-infesting moths in the Middle East. The Braconidae Apanteles myeloenta Wilkinson killed about 50% of the moths infesting pomegranates in Iran. However, parasitization of larvae in Acacia and citrus is very low. The combination of a Bacillus thuriengiensis (Bt) product and the ectoparasitoid Habrobracon hebetor Say (Braconidae) in stored dates provided satisfactory pest control in North Africa.
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Blumberg, D. 2008. Date palm arthropod pests and their management in Israel. Phytoparasitica 36: 411-448.
Calderon, M., Donahaye, E. and Navarro, S. 1969. Ectomyelois ceratoniae (Zell.) Lep., Phycitidae), a major pest of stored almonds in Israel. Journal of Stored Products Research 4: 427-428.
Dhouibi, M.H. and Jemmazi, A. 1996. Lutte biologique en entrepot contre la pyrale Ectomyelois ceratoniae, ravageur des dates. _Fruits _51: 39-46.
Gothilf, S. and Mazor, M. 1987. Release and recovery of imported parasites of the carob moth Spectrobates ceratoniae (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) in Israel. Israel Journal of Entomology 21: 19-23.
Kehat, M., Blumberg, D., Dunkelblum, E. and helevich, L. 1995. Experiments with synthetic sexpheromones for the control of the raisin moth, and for monitoringthe carob moth in date plantations. Alon Hanotea 49: 284-290 (in Hebrew with an English Abstract)
Vetter, R.S., Tatevossian, S. and Baker, T.C. 1997. Reproductive behavior of the female carob moth, (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). Pan-Pacific Entomologist 73: 28-35.
Warner, R.L., Barner, M.M. and Laird, E.F. 1990. Chemical control of a carob moth, Ectomyelois ceratoniae (lepidoptera, Pyralidae), and various nitidulid beetles (Coleoptera) on Deglet Noor dates in California. Journal of Economic Entomology 83: 2357-2361.