Microlepidoptera on Solanaceae

Keiferia lycopersicella


Keiferia lycopersicella (Walsingham, 1897)

Common name: tomato pinworm

Original combination: Eucatoptus lycopersicella Walsingham, 1897


  • Phthorimaea lenta Meyrick, 1917
  • Phthorimaea lycopersicella Busck, 1928

Alternative combinations:

  • Keiferia lenta (Meyrick, 1917)
  • Keiferia lycopersicella (Busck, 1928)
  • Aristotelia lycopersicella

Classification: Gelechioidea: Gelechiidae: Gelechiinae: Gnorimoschemini

Adult recognition

Adults are about 4.2-5.5 mm in forewing length. They are variably light to medium gray mottled with dark gray and yellowish-orange. The labial palpus is upturned. The hindwing is trapezoidal with gray cilia, modified with hair-pencils above from the base of the costal margin in males. The abdomen is gray with the ventral surface very light dull yellow. The male genitalia have a sickle-shaped uncus, an ovate gnathos, an elongate valva with enlarged apex which is bifurcate with unequal branches, and vinculum with the posterior margin projected medially and with paired finger-like lateral processes. Females have the ostium with oblong sclerotization, a long funnel-shaped antrum, and a large sickle-shaped signum with protruding base.

Immature stages

The prothoracic shield is pale with a dark band along the posterior margin, but early instars lack this shading. All three L setae on T1 are often joined on a single sclerotized pinaculum. Crochets of A3-6 are in a penellipse. SD1 of A9 is hair-like. The cuticle at least on the dorsum of the posterior abdominal segments has round to pointed microgranules bearing short microsetae.

PDF - Dichotomous key to Gelechiid larvae

Similar species

This species is superficially similar to Tuta absoluta, but it can be distinguished by the grayish-black spots in the forewing fold followed by yellowish-orange scales. This species also resembles several species of Scrobipalpa, from which males can be separated by the long hair pencils at the base on the hindwing costa (lacking in Scrobipalpa).

Keiferia lycopersicella is the only North American species we studied with a dark band on the posterior margin of the prothoracic shield. It has a wide distribution and relatively wide host range. It is easily confused with the exotic species Tuta absoluta, also a tomato pest. The two are very similar but may be separated by the cuticular texture of the dorsum of the posterior abdominal segments. Keiferia lycopersicella has round to pointed microgranules. This same region has microspines in Tuta absoluta. Comparative material of both species is helpful to see this difference. Living larva may show color differences lost in preserved specimens. Early instars of either species will be difficult to recognize with morphology.


Eggs are laid singly or in small groups on a leaf. Larvae initially make a blotch-like leaf-mine, but later they feed between spun leaves or enter the stem or fruits. Pupation occurs in a web on the ground surface.


Native to North America, Hawaii and Mexico. USA (throughout Eastern and Southwestern part of the United States, Hawaii), Mexico, Central America and Caribbean, South America, Europe, West Indies.


Solanum bahamense L. (Bahama nightshade)

Solanum carolinense L. (Carolina horsenettle)

Solanum lycopersicum L. (Garden tomato)

Solanum melongena L. var esculentum Nees (Eggplant)

Solanum tuberosum L. (Irish potato)

Solanum umbelliferum Eschsch. (Bluewitch nightshade)

Solanum xanti A. Gray (Chaparral nightshade)


This species is a well-known pest of tomato, but it is known to feed on various other solanaceous plants, including eggplant.


Huemer and Karsholt, 2010.

Keifer, 1936.

Walsingham, 1897.