These feathery beige moths are responsible for the loss of 25 - 50% of each year’s California coastal artichoke crop. If you are lucky enough to live in desert areas, this pest isn’t a problem. Otherwise, read on!
But, before we start learning about this pest, I have to comment on its scientific name. If you read this blog regularly, you know that I always try to include the Latin names. Some of them can be pretty entertaining, such as carrot’s Daucus carota. Any coincidence to Bugs’ “What’s up, doc?” Hard to say for sure, but this plume moth’s scientific name just begs to be, well, something. I mean, Platyptilia carduidactyla just screams platypus pterodactyl to me. Ok, maybe not.
Artichoke plume moth description
Adult moths are brownish beige to beige, with a wingspan of 3/4” to 1-1/2”. The wings are unique for a couple of reasons. First, they look very narrow when moths are at rest, with ends that are wider or “footed”. If you can look closely, you will see that the hind wings are fringed. Also, both sets of wings are lobed, creating the illusion that they have several wings. First instar larvae are pale yellow and only 1 mm long, so they are difficult to see. Later instars are larger, with the final instar reaching a little over 1/2” in length, and a more pinkish color. Eggs are only 0.5mm long and shiny. They start out a pale greenish yellow and turn a darker orangish-yellow before hatching.
Artichoke plume moth lifecycle
Female moths lay an average of 245 eggs singly on the underside of leaves and on stems, usually close to unopened buds. When they hatch, larvae begin feeding on leaves, stems, and buds. After their first molt, larvae borrow into your precious artichoke plants. With three or four overlapping generations a year, plume moths can inflict some serious damage!
Controlling the artichoke plume moth
Back in the 1940’s and 50’s, DDT was used to control these pests. Luckily, those days are behind us. Research has shown that good sanitation and cultural controls are very effective, although insect growth regulators (IGR) and pheromone traps are used on many commercially grown crops. You can protect your artichokes from the plume moth with these practices:
Have you seen this pest in your yard? Let us know in the comments!
I hope this information inspires you to grow more of your own food. You can ask your garden questions on my Home page.