Moths and potatoes
Among the microlepidoptera Gelechiidae family, three species are of agroeconomical importance and have solanaceous plants as hosts:
- Phthorimaea operculella (potato tuber moth),
- Scrobipalpopsis (=Tecia) solanivora (Guatemalan potato moth),
- Tuta absoluta (tomato leaf miner)
Unlike the potato tuber moth, the two other species have only recently been described as being present in Europe and both may have the potato plant as host as well.
Guatemalan potato moth
The adult of Scrobipalpopsis (Tecia) solanivora is a small dark to light brown moth (photo 1) with a wingspan of 15-22 mm and the larval stage (photo 2) is the most devastating (photos 3 and 4).
Initially present in Central America, this potato tuber moth has been present in Spain (Canary Islands) since 1999 and has no other plant host known besides the potato.
Specific control measures (no plant export from areas where it is present) have to be taken in order to avoid further spread to Northern European areas.
Tomato leaf miner
The adult of Tuta absoluta is the smallest of these 3 moth species with a wingspan of 8-10 mm and a greyish body colour (photo 5). Tomato is the preferred host but potato can be infested. This moth has high reproductive potential and strong dissemination capacity. Larval stages feed only on mesophyll tissues, leaving the epidermis intact and making typical leaf symptoms (photo 6).