back to HYPP Zoology home page

Spodoptera littoralis (Boisduval)
Spodoptera litura auct., Prodenia litura auct.

Insecta, Lepidoptera, Noctuidae .

Cotton worm, African cotton leafworm

Description, Biology, Life Cycle, Damage, Common Names, Images

- Adult: the moth (*) has a wingspan of 35 to 40 mm. Fore wings are brownish with bluish overtones and straw yellow along the median vein; the ocellus is marked by 2 or 3 oblique whitish stripes. The front of the wing tip has a blackish marking, more pronounced in the male. Hind wings are whitish, with a brown front edge.
- Egg: about 0.6 mm long, more or less spherical. Eggs are laid in clusters and covered with brownish-yellow hairs detached from the abdomen of the female.
- Larva: the neonate caterpillar is pale green with a brownish head; when fully developed (L 4) it is 35 to 45 mm long.
Colour varies: from grey to reddish or yellowish, with a median dorsal line bordered on either side by two yellowish-red or greyish stripes, and small yellow dots on each segment.
The edges, more or less dark grey, bear triangular markings which on the 1st and 8th segments become 2+2 large, triangular, velvety black markings. The underside of the caterpillar is greyish-red or yellowish (*) (*) .
- Pupa: 15 to 20 mm long, brick red colour, the cremaster with a single pair of spines.

- A highly polyphagous species: it attacks Solanaceae, Cruciferaceae, artichoke, strawberry, fodder crops, maize, cotton, tomato, capsicum.
- Adults: appear in early spring (as early as February in cold glasshouses). The moths emerge at twilight or at night.
- Eggs: laid in clusters covered in hairs from the abdomen of the female. The majority of clusters are sited on the lower parts of plants.
At a temperature of 25 to 28°C, embryonic development takes 3 to 4 days.
- Larvae: firstly gregarious, the caterpillars become solitary from L4. Like the butterflies, they are mainly nocturnal, sheltering in the soil during the day.
- Pupa: after about 2 weeks, pupation takes place in the soil at a depth of about 2 to 5 cm.
The adult moult occurs in less than a week.

[R]Life Cycle
- In its region of origin (Egypt), some ten generations occur each year; in greenhouses, only 7 are possible, depending on the conditions, which may cause its migration.
- This moth overwinters as a pupa in the soil.

In Italy, mostly found in glasshouses where it causes damage to plant and flower production, recognizable by the large bites taken out of leaves.
In Sicily, vegetables and fodder crops (*) are affected, as well as maize.
In North Africa, industrial production (tomato, capsicum, cotton, maize) and vegetables are affected. In Egypt, it is one of the most serious cotton pests.

[R]Common Names
DE: Ägyptische Baumwollraupe ES: Rosquilla negra FR: Ver du cotonnier, Prodénia IT: Nottua del cotone PT: Prodénia do algodão GB: African cotton leaf worm, Cotton worm

[R] Images

  1. Spodoptera littoralis (Boisduval) (Coutin R. / OPIE)
  2. Spodoptera littoralis (Boisduval) (Rasplus J.-Y. / INRA Versailles)
    Larva on leaf of tomato
  3. Spodoptera littoralis (Boisduval) (BASF)
    Caterpillar on lucerne
  4. Spodoptera littoralis (Boisduval) (BASF)
    Larval infestations on lucerne

To read this page in French

HYPPZ on line : Species (scientific name), Pests (common names), Glossary, Crops.

back to HYPP Zoology home page