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Identifying and Controlling the Light Brown Apple Moth

Small Insect is a Big Worry in California


Identifying and Controlling the Light Brown Apple Moth

A Light Brown Apple Moth Caterpillar

Nigel Cattlin, Visuals Unlimited, Courtesy of Getty Images
Preventing the establishment of invasive species is always the best method. However, when a population like the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) becomes embedded, government officials may take extreme steps in an effort to protect their business and populace.

What is it?

The Light Brown Apple Moth is a leafroller moth, a native of Australia and although reportedly sighted in Hawaii in the 1800’s, the recent reports of its introduction to CA are the first on the U.S. mainland.


LBAM are ¼’ to ½’ long, with adults and larvae so variable in color that they are often misidentified.


Up to several hundred eggs are laid by individual females on fruit or leaves, hatching in 75-90 days. Unlike many insect young, LBAM larvae continue their development through the winter season, albeit at a slower pace. Therefore, multiple generations emerge annually, producing astounding numbers of adult moths.

Feeding Habits

Scientists have classified 1,000 plant species as host plants for the LBAM, including cypress, pine and redwood trees in addition to 250 varieties of fruit from apricots to grapes to peaches.


Biological methods include spraying Bacillus thuringiensis or horticultural oils on fruit clusters to eliminate the feeding larvae. Aerial spraying and topical applications of synthetic hormones combined with insecticides have been very controversial and alternate eradication methods such as releasing sterile moths incapable of reproduction are being utilized.

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