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New Zealand Plant Protection 67 (2014): 327

Larval development of the plantain-feeding moth Scopula rubraria (Doubleday) (Lepidoptera: Geometridae)

B.A. Philip and C.M. Ferguson


'Tonic' plantain has become a popular forage crop, but several Lepidoptera species not traditionally considered pests have caused significant damage in some stands. At least two species of looper caterpillars (Family Geometridae) commonly referred to as 'plantain moths', Scopula rubraria and Epyaxa rosearia, have been associated with serious defoliation. Both are thought to be New Zealand native species, with S. rubraria also present in Australia. Leafroller caterpillars (Family Tortricidae) Merophyas leucaniana (New Zealand native) and M. divulsana (Australian species) have also been found damaging plant crowns. Scopula rubraria were collected from a Manawatu plantain/grass sward. A laboratory colony was Five larval instars for both sexes were observed; mean weights at the start of each instar were 0.04, 0.32, 1.64, 4.60 and 9.95 mg. Most larval growth occurred in the fifth instar with mean maximum weight being 35.65 mg. Mean durations of each instar were: 5.4, 4.8, 3.5, 4.2 and 10.1 days and the total larval stage was 28.0 days. Pupal duration averaged 11.8 days. Resultant adults began laying eggs 1-2 days after eclosion and these hatched in 7 days. The total length of the life cycle was approximately 49 days.

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