Plodia interpunctella

Plodia interpunctella (Hübner)

Common name: Indian-meal moth.

Systematic position: Insecta, Holometabola, Lepidoptera, Pyralidae.

Morphology: Adults are 8–10 mm in length The anterior third of their forewings is greysh, the distal two thirds are reddish brown, with a copper hue. The larvae are mostly grey with a brown head, 12–14 mm long, with 5 pairs of prolegs.

Distribution: Cosmopolitan.

Life history: A life cycle requires about 4-6 weeks in summer, much longer in winter, and several annual generations can be completed; the actual duration usually depends also on the diet (commodity). The exposure of the larval stages to low temperatures (below 20°C) can induce diapause, and various moth strains differ in their tendency to enter diapause. Fecundity depends on diet; about 100 on wheat, 175 on broken maize, but 260, 275, and 280 when the young larvae were reared on walnuts, almonds, and wheat bran, respectively. The eggs are laid on the food singly or in small groups. The emerging larvae that feed on grain usually occur in the upper parts of stacked bags. As they grow they spin webs, leaving silk threads as they move within the commodity, in which they pupate within cocoons. The adults, which are attracted by and move towards food odors, live for about one week. They do not usually migrate, but occasionally undertake long-distance foraging flights, during the twilight hours.

Economic importance: Plodia interpunctella is a major pest of stored products, causing serious quantity and quality losses. It infests many dry foodstuffs of vegetable origin, including dried fruits and nuts, cereals, flour, bread, rice and others. It also feeds on pet (including bird) foods. Damage is due to product loss, soiling it and engulfing it in webbing which reduces its value, and to engendering consumer complaints. In addition, the larvae can bite through plastic and cardboard containers in order to gain access to the sealed products and damage them.


Monitoring: The primary adult sampling tools are pheromone, and/or sticky traps, water traps and mark and recapture. Larvae can be sampled with food traps or corrugated cardboard traps.

Mechanical control: Sanitation, surface insecticidal treatments, sealing cracks and crevices in the storehouse, inert dusts, modified atmosheres and heat treatments can reduce infestations. Insect-resistant food packaging can prevent the invasion of the larval stages.

Auto-confusion: This system was successfully used in Greece to reduce pest infestations in retail stores and feed mills.

Irradiation: Irradiating infested moth-infested dates with doses of 450 Gy caused larval death. Irradiating hazelnuts (Corylus avellana L. ) with 1000 Gy killed all pest eggs and immatures.

Physical control: Storage at 10°C killed most moths, the surviving adults producing fewer eggs which had lower viability. Some types of diatomaceous earth were lethal to the pest, but mortality decreased with increased humidity, which prevented the drying action of this compound. The pest may also be killed by keeping the infested commodity for a week at freezing temperature or by brief heating in a microwave

Chemical control: Pest strains have developed resistance to organophosphates and to Bacillus thuringiensis. Spinosade still seems to be effective. The combination of pyrethrin and an insect growth regulator (methoprene) applied as aerosol controlled the pest in storage facilities.

Biological control: Species of Trichogramma are major enemies of P interpunctella. Trichogramma evanescens Westwood forages for pest eggs to a depth of 8 cm in wheat or oats grains, less in rice grains. Other Trichogramma spp. suppressed about 57% of the pest population in peanuts. Effective pest control has in some cases been achieved with Habrobracon hebetor. New strains of B. thuringiensis studied in Turkey seem to be promising. The microsporidian pathogen, Nosema plodiae Kellen and Lindegren, infected the pest’s larvae, which became stunted and often died before pupating. Baculoviruses, which are disseminated by healthy adults, decreased the moth’s reproduction and egg viability. The fecundity of moths infected by Entomopathogenic nematodes was reduced by at least 44%; the larvae were less susceptible.


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