Microlepidoptera on Solanaceae

Duponchelia fovealis


Duponchelia fovealis Zeller, 1847

Common names: European pepper moth; Southern European marshland pyralid

Original combination: Duponchelia fovealis Zeller, 1847


  • Decticogaster komiensis Ghesquière, 1942
  • Duponchelia floeschlalis Legrand, 1965
  • Hymenia griseata Butler, 1875
  • Stenia canuisalis Millière, 1868
  • Stenia uniflexalis Mabille, 1879

Classification: Pyraloidea: Crambidae: Spilomelinae, Hymenia group

Adult recognition

Forewing length 6.8 - 9.0 mm, broad. The wings are gray with white lines. The white postmedial line is bent out as a distinctive "finger," and males have a scaleless window (fovea) on the forewing. If the scales are worn, the common stalk of forewing veins M3 and CuA1 distinguishes this species. In addition, the labial palpi are upturned, and the female wings have two frenular bristles. Male genitalia have oval valvae with three hooked projections near the valva base (two fibulae and a projection from the sacculus). Females have a short ductus and corpus bursae with the ductus seminalis arising directly from the latter.

Immature stages

The pinacula are distinct and strongly colored brown. The T1 L group has two setae. The features that distinguish it from the other crambid larvae treated herein are (1) the presence of three setae in the subventral group of the first abdominal segment and (2) the D2 (posterior dorsal) pinacula on A8 are fused. In addition, the hairlike condition of the SD2 seta on T2 and T3 is uncommon among other Spilomelinae.

Similar species

Duponchelia does not belong to the Leucinodes group, the members of which differ in the shape of the palps, wing patterns, and non-oval valvae of the male genitalia. Two species of Penestola Möschler occur in littoral swamps of coastal Florida. Males of P. bufalis (Guenée) also have a forewing fovea, whereas P. simplicialis (Barnes & McDunnough) do not. Both are grayish brown without white lines, forewing M3 and CuA1 are separate, and the genitalia differ in the shape of the male fibulae and female antrum. They are often attracted to traps for Tephritidae (fruit flies).


Eggs are laid on any part of the plant, but the undersides of leaves are preferred. Eggs are laid in clusters of 3 to 10 and hatch in 8 to 10 days. Larvae prefer moist or wet conditions. They spin webs on the soil surface under leaves, and they can tunnel between the soil and inner surface of containers. Larvae chew holes in leaves, succulent stems, and most aerial plant parts. Larvae can take 7 to 8 weeks to develop, but as little as 3 to 4 weeks has been reported. They do not diapause or tolerate cold conditions, so they are limited to glasshouses in their northern distribution. Larvae are attracted to moist, swampy conditions, such as near irrigation and in shaded places; they can tolerate submersion in water for some time.

Pupation lasts 1 to 2 weeks, and the soil-encrusted cocoon is built on the ground or side of the container. Adults fly low among plants and can be flushed during the day. Adults hold the abdomen erect much like members of the Leucinodes group.


Native to Southern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, the species has become more broadly distributed in Northern Europe and North America through the nursery trade, often in greenhouses. In Florida, it has been detected with cultivated plants in several counties, but there is no evidence of its establishment in the environment. In the southern US, has also been detected in AL, GA, MS, and TX, as well as in nurseries in other states.


Polyphagous and saprophagous. Larvae feed on the vegetative parts of a wide variety of hosts, and they also feed on organic matter such as moist rotting leaves and potting soil. Among solanaceous crops, pepper (Capsicum annuum L). is the most frequently reported host. Adults have also been captured among cultivated tomatoes.


Although Duponchelia fovealis is polyphagous, some of its most frequent associations are with Solanaceae, in particular peppers and tomatoes. Damage to the fruits is not reported. The larvae are probably capable of feeding on any part of the plant and the associated growing medium.


Ahern, 2010.

Billen, 1994.

Brambila and Passoa, 2010.

Heppner and Brambila, 2010.

Trematerra, 1990.

Photo credits

Figs. 8 & 9: © Lyle Buss, University of Florida, Entomology and Nematology Department