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Citrus Pests


Egyptian cottonworm


Scientific name


Spodoptera littoralis (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)

Other common names


Egyptian cotton leafworm, Mediterranean brocade

Similar species


beet armyworm Spodoptera exigua

cotton cutworm, Spodoptera litura

fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda

southern armyworm, Spodoptera eridania

For definitive identification, it is necessary to dissect adult male internal parts.



United States: not known to be established in North America but has been intercepted at U.S. ports.

Worldwide: Africa, Asia, and southern Europe.

Native to Africa and Israel.

Diagnostic characteristics

  • 20 mm (0.8 in.) in length.
  • Wing span is 40 mm (1.6 in.).
  • Gray to brownish-red.
  • Hindwings grayish-white, lacking darker veins.
  • Gray margins.
  • Reddish-brown color.
  • Six larval instars
  • Final instar 35 - 45 mm (1.4 -1.8 in.).
  • Blackish-gray to dark green, eventually becoming reddish-brown as they mature.
  • Dark and light longitudinal bands.
  • Dorsal semi-lunar dark spots.
  • Eggs laid in masses of 100 - 300.
  • Eggs are whitish-yellow in color usually covered in orange brown scales from the female's body.
  • Eggs masses measure about 3 - 7 mm (0.12 - 0.27 in.).


Citrus hosts

All Citrus species and their hybrids.

Non-citrus hosts

Wide host range. Known to feed on 87 host plant species of economical importance including:

  • all cruciferous vegetables, Brassica oleracea
  • alfalfa, Medicago sativa
  • avocado, Persea americana
  • bean, Phaseolus vulgaris
  • corn, Zea mays
  • cotton, Gossypium spp.
  • grape, Vitis spp.
  • lettuce, Lactuca sativa
  • oak, Quercus spp.
  • potato, Solanum tuberosum
  • soybean, Glycine max
  • squash, Cucurbita spp.
  • sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas
  • tomato, Solanum lycopersicum

Host damage


Plant development can be disrupted due to feeding on plant growth points.


Larvae can bore into fruits.


Infestation usually results in defoliation. Larvae skeletonize the leaves.


Mature larvae usually hide underground during the day and feed above ground at night. In soft soil, larvae can continue to feed on the host plant roots during the day.



A female lays 1000 - 2000 eggs in her lifetime. Eggs are laid on the lower leaf surface of host plants and are covered with scales from the female's abdomen. Eggs hatch in 2 - 5 days. Larvae feed on all parts of the plant and will sometimes hide underground during the day and feed at night. Larvae drop to the ground and pupate in the soil in an earthen cocoon.



The larvae of these moths can be transported on host plants and have been found in greenhouses as far north as Sweden. These pests are usually intercepted when traveling between countries.

In Egypt, there are 7 overlapping generations per year.



(CABI/EPPO) European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization. Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International. 1997. Quarantine pests for Europe, 2nd Ed. CAB International. Wallingford, UK

Espinosa, A. and A.C. Hodges. 2009. Spodoptera littoralis. Bugwood Wiki fact sheet. (

Pierce, C.M.F. 2009. Egyptian Cotton Leafworm. Indiana Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey System. (



Weeks, J.A., A.C. Hodges, and N.C. Leppla


Citrus Pests
Content last updated June, 2012