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Pacific Fruit-Piercing Moth

PACIFIC FRUIT-PIERCING MOTH | Pacific Islands Area NRCS Shared Top Border


Robert J. Joy, Plant Materials Specialist

Photo of larva of the Pacific fruit-piercing moth. The caterpillar in the photo is the larva of the Pacific fruit-piercing moth. You may see them eating the leaves of Erythrina trees (coral trees). They are usually seen beneath the leaves or on the edges. The population is normally kept in check by tiny parasitic wasps called Trichogramma egg parasitoids. However, these tiny wasps can become ineffective after periods of strong winds and heavy rain as occurred in Hawaii during the winter-spring season of 2004. When this happens, it may take a month or so for the parasites to catch up. These sorts of outbreaks don’t seem to reoccur in the same place the following year.

The moth stage does the real damage. The adult moth flies at night and sucks out the juices of ripe mango, banana, tomato, melon, citrus, guava, papaya and other fruit with its proboscis (tongue). Actually, the fruit doesn’t have to be fully ripe as long as its skin is soft enough to be pierced by the moth. A brown, circular, rotten area develops round the tiny puncture hole and the fruit is ruined for commercial sale. The female moth lays its yellowish green eggs on the underside of the leaves of trees in the genus Erythrina such as the �Tropic Coral’ tall erythrina, Hawaiian native wiliwili, tiger’s claw, gaogao (Guam), gatae (Samoa) and parepein (Pohnpei). The larvae or caterpillars hatch and feed on the leaves. They are 2-3” long, green to a rich brown-black color and have two eye spots on each side. Pupae are formed among the leaves and are shining brown-black with a purplish cast. The moths emerge from the pupae. The life-cycle from hatching of eggs to adult moths takes about 30-60 days depending on the weather.

The fruit-piercing moth has been in Hawaii for almost 20 years and longer than that in the Pacific Basin Area. It is not considered an important economic pest in Hawaii but it is in the Pacific Basin which is why Tropic Coral isn’t recommended for windbreaks there. If it’s necessary to control the caterpillars on Erythrina trees because they are becoming severely defoliated, the natural pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis (BT, Dipel) should work. However, spraying to control the caterpillars is not usually needed because the parasite population will eventually increase and take care of the problem. Consulting with an Extension Agent for a control recommendation is advised.


Fukada, M.T. 2004. Entomologist, Hawaii Department of Agriculture. Personal communication.

Maddison, P.A. 1982. Fruit-Piercing Moth. South Pacific Commission Advisory Leaflet 14. South Pacific Commission, BP D5, Noumea Cedex, New Caledonia.

Martin Kessing, J.L., and R.F.L. Mau. 1993. Othreis fullonia (Clerk) Pacific Fruit-Piercing Moth.

Crop Knowledge Master. Department of Entomology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Photograph: D. Duvauchelle, Natural Resource Specialist. 


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