Pest Control: Caterpillars

Tuta absoluta, also known as the tomato leaf miner, tomato pinworm and South American tomato moth, is a major pest of field and greenhouse-grown tomatoes. Adult moths are grey-brown, while newly hatched caterpillars are yellowish and small. During maturation, caterpillars turn yellow-green, and a black band develops behind the head. Fully-grown caterpillars have a pinkish color on their back.

Damage

Tuta absoluta larvae mine the leaves producing large galleries, where they feed on mesophyll tissues and leaving irregular mines on the leaf surface, later they burrow into the fruit, causing a substantial loss of tomato production in protected and open field cultivations. This pest damage occurs throughout the entire tomato growing cycle. Adult females can lay hundreds of eggs and have a very high reproduction rate with up to 10 to 12 generations per year, in favorable conditions. Tuta absoluta are unlikely to enter diapause if a food source is available although they can also overwinter as eggs, pupae and as adults.  The tomato leaf miner attacks tomato plants during all the plant stages, from seedling to mature plant. Losses on tomatoes can reach 100% due to larval feeding, if not effectively controlled.

Natural Enemies

There are specific natural enemies for different species of caterpillars.

The primary beneficial insects that are natural enemies of caterpillars are as follows: 

(Click the name of the beneficial insect for additional information) 

BioSc - An Entomopathogenic nematode containing infective juveniles of Steinernema carpocapsae in an inert carrier.

In addition to these insects, the following insects also target caterpillars along with their primary enemies:

BioLacewing - (Chrysoperla rufilabris) also known as the red-lipped green lacewing, is an insect of the Chrysopidae family. The delicate looking adult feeds on nectar and pollen while the larvae of BioLacewing is the active predator. The three larval instars are the voracious ones.

BioOrius - (Orius laevigatus) is a predatory minute pirate bug equipped with piercing-sucking mouth parts, and two pairs of wings, the front pair being partially rigid. The adult is brown black with grey spots.

BioSf - An entomopathogenic nematode containing infective juveniles of Steinernema feltiae in an inert carrier.