Tuta absoluta

Tuta absoluta (Meyrick)

Taxonomic placing: Insecta, Holometabola, Lepidoptera, Gelechiidae.

Common name: Tomato leafminer or tomato moth.

Geographical distribution: World-wide.

Morphology: Larva about 7-9 mm long, green to pink with a brown head. Adult 9-10 mm long, brown with black spots on the forewings.

Host plants: Various solanaceous species, especially tomato and potato.

Life cycle: Each female lays about 250-300 eggs on the solanaceous host plants. At hatching the larvae feed and burrow tunnels in the leaves, flowers, stems and especially in fruits. They pupate within their mines, in the soil, or on the leaf surface. The pest, which can raise a generation in 4-5 weeks, may complete 10–12 annual generation in different regions. The moths are nocturnal and usually remain between leaves during the day.

Economic importance: The tomato leafminer is a major pest of tomato, and when not controlled fruit damage can reach 60-100%. Feeding on other plant parts can reduce the yield. In Latin America, T. absoluta is a key pest of tomato. The pest also damages potatoes, but to a lesser extent because it does not attack tubers in the field or in storage. Both crops can also be affected by rot pathogens that may invade via wounds made by the pest. The leafminer currently continues to spread in Afro-Eurasia and beyond. It is considered a threat to tomato world production in the field and in protected environments, especially in warmer parts of the world. In 2004 the pest was added to the EPPO A1 action list of pests recommended for regulation as quarantine pests.


Monitoring: Sex pheromone traps for capturing males are used for monitoring in different parts of the world. The effectiveness of the traps was enhanced when they were red.

Horticultural practices: Crop rotation with non-solanaceous crops, ploughing, adequate fertilization, irrigation, destruction of infested plants and of post-harvest plant debris.

Plant resistance: The susceptibility of tomato cultivars to T. absoluta varies encouraging studies on and plant resistance.

Mass-trapping: combined use of pheromones as well as specific light frequency traps was effective in suppressing T. absoluta populations.

Mating disruption: Pheromone dispensers applied at a density of 1000/h in a greenhouse reduced fruit damage by 62–89, suggesting that it can be a viable leafminer control strategy in greenhouses.

Chemical control: Many pesticides have been used against T. absoluta but the pest has developed much resistance to most. Spinosad and imidacloprid are still being used. Preparations of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) are very lethal to the first instar larvae, but the second and third instar larvae are less susceptible.

Biological control: Many natural enemies of T. absoluta occur in different regions, especially in South America. These include parasitoids such as Eulophidae, Braconidae and Trichogrammatidae, as well as predatory Anthocoridae and Miridae. In Israel the natural enemies, especially the indigenous mirid Nesidiocoris tenuis, successfully control the pest in open-field tomatoes. In addition, entomopathogenic nematodes, and entomopathogenic fungi were assayed. Several of these natural enemies were used in integrated, international leafminer control programs.


Al-Jboory, I.J., Katbeh-Bader, A. and Al-Zaidi Shakir, A.-Z. 2012. First observation and identification of some natural enemies collected from heavily infested tomato by Tuta absoluta (Meyrick) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) in Jordan. Middle-East Journal of Scientific Research 11: 787-790.

Anon. 2005. Data sheets on quarantine pests: Tuta absoluta. EPPO Bulletin 35: 434–435.

Cocco, A., Deliperi, S. and Delrio, G. 2013. Control of Tuta absoluta (Meyrick) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) in greenhouse tomato crops using the mating disruption technique. Journal of Applied Entomology 137: 16-28.

Desneux, N., Luna, M.G., Guillemaud, T. and Urbaneja, A. 2011. The invasive South American tomato pinworm, Tuta absoluta, continues to spread in Afro-Eurasia and beyond: the new threat to tomato world production. Journal of Pest Science 84: 403–408.

Doğanlar, M. 2011. Parasitoid complex of the tomato leaf miner, Tuta absolut (Meyrick 1917), (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) in Hatay, Turkey. KSU Journal of Natural Sciences 14: 28-37.

Garcia-del-Pino, F., Alabern, X. and Morton, A. 2011. Efficacy of entomopathogenic nematodes against the larvae and adults of the tomato leafminer Tuta absoluta in soil treatments and their compatibility with the insecticides used against this insect. IOBC/WPRS Bulletin 66: 267–270.

Lietti, M.M., Botto, E. and Alzogaray, R.A. 2005. Insecticide resistance in Argentine populations of Tuta absoluta (Meyrick) (Lepidoptera; Gelechiidae). Neotropical Entomolgy 34: 113-119.

Luna, M.G. (and 7 co-authors). 2012. Biological control of Tuta absoluta in Argentina and Italy: evaluation of indigenous insects as natural enemies. EPPO Bulletin 42: 260–267.

Mollá, O., Gonzalez-Cabrera, J. and Urbaneja, A. 2011. The combined use of Bacillus thuringiensis and Nesidiocoris tenuis against the tomato borer Tuta absoluta. BioControl 56: 883-891.

Seplyarsky, V., Weiss, M. and Haberman, A. 2010. Tuta absoluta Povolny (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), a new invasive species in Israel. Phytoparasitica 38: 415-416.

Shaltiel-Harpaz, L. (and 9 co-authors). 2016. Control of the tomato leafminer, Tuta absoluta (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), in open-field tomatoes by indigenous natural enemies occurring in Israel. Journal of Economoc Entomology 109: 120-131.

Shalaby, H.H., Faragalla, F.H., El-Saadany, H.M. and Ibrahim, A.A. 2013. Efficacy of three entomopathogenic agents for control the tomato borer, Tuta absoluta (Meyrick) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae). Nature and Science 11: 63-72.

Taha, A.M., Homam, B.H., Afsah, A.F.E. and EL-Sharkawy, F.M. 2012. Effect of trap color on captures of Tuta absoluta moths (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae). International Journal of Environmental Science and Engineering 3: 43- 48.

Zappala, L. (and 16 co-authors). 2013. Natural enemies of the South American moth, Tuta absoluta, in Europe, North Africa and Middle East, and their potential use in pest control strategies. Journal of Pest Science 86: 635-647.

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