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Tomato pinworm (Tuta absoluta): A new invasive pest to India

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The tomato pinworm,Tuta absoluta (Meyrick) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) is one of the global major destructive invasive pests  was found to be occuring in India in the year 2014.  The pest has spread from South America to several parts of Europe, entire Africa and has now spread to India. Plants are damaged by direct feeding on leaves, stems, buds, calyces, young fruit, or ripe fruit and by the invasion of secondary pathogens which enter through the wounds made by the pest. It can cause up to 90% loss of yield and fruit quality under greenhouses and field conditions.

Pest Description

Egg: The eggs are elliptical, and their colour varies from oyster-white to bright yellow, darkening in the embryonic phase and becoming almost black near eclosion.

Larva: The first-instar larvae are whitish soon after eclosion, becoming greenish or light pink in the second to fourth instars according to food (leaflet or ripe fruit, respectively). There are usually four instars.

Pre-pupa: The pre-pupae are lighter than the feeding larvae (first to fourth instars) and develop a distinguishing pink colouration on the dorsal surface. They leave the mines and build silk cocoons on the leaflets or in the soil, according to habitat. When pupation occurs inside mines or fruit the pre-pupae do not build cocoons.

Pupa: Pupae are obtecta with greenish coloration at first, turning chestnut brown and dark brown near adult emergence.

Adult: Adult moths are about 10 mm long, with silverish-grey scales, filiform antenae, alternating light or dark segments and recurved labial palps which are well developed.

Host plants

Tuta absoluta prefers to feed on tomato, though other solanaceous plants, including potato, have been recorded as hosts. It is known to have many generations in a year and affects tomato in all growing stages.

Symptoms of damage

Larvae mine in the mesophyll of leaves and make irregular, papery mines. The larvae also mine apical buds and stems. In cases of heavy infestation, both green and red fruits are attacked and infested fruits show small holes on the surface and the larvae tunnel / mine below the surface. Pupation takes place in soil or on plant parts such as leaves and stem. Adult moths are silvery brown with mottled wings.



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Please note that this is the opinion of the author and is Not Certified by ICAR or any of its authorised agents.