Common Name: Tomato Pinworm
Scientific Name: Order Lepidoptera, family Gelechiidae, Keiferia lycopersicella
Size: Adult--1/4" to 1/2", larva--1/4"
Identification: Adults are small gray moths. Larvae are yellowish gray or greenish, purple-spotted caterpillars.
Biology and Life Cycle: Complete metamorphosis. The larvae roll and tie leaf tips together and tunnel inside the leaves. The caterpillars then drop to the ground to pupate. Several generations a year.
Habitat: Vegetable gardens, especially tomatoes but also eggplants, peppers, and potatoes.
Feeding Habits: Feed on tomato foliage and fruit. They cause leaf damage similar to that of leafminers and also damage stems and fruit. They will attack fruit at any stage of maturity. Favorite entry point is around the stems of the fruit under the calyx.
Economic Importance: Can cause great damage to tomatoes, much greater than that of leafminers.
Natural Control: Parasitic wasps and flies.
Organic Control: Bacillus thuringiensis sprays.
Insight: This insect does not appear to be a significant pest in Texas, although it does pop up from time to time. Its damage seems to be the most severe on greenhouse plants. Severe infestations can result in fields sprayed with weed killers.