By The Grower staff

Although the European pepper moth was recently detected in a few states, including California and Florida, it has been a concern for North American agricultural officials for several years.

The pest, known scientifically as Duponchelia fovealis, was found in a California greenhouse in 2004 but was eradicated, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

Officials suspect the pest hitchhiked in on begonias imorted from the Netherlands.

The moth was then confirmed in Canada in April 2005.

Since the moth has been found twice in California during the past five years, California Department of Food and Agriculture inspectors hung pheromone traps throughtout the state to detect the pest should it be present.

Traps were placed on June 28, and the first moth was captured July 1.

The pest has been trapped in a total of 11 counties. Most are in Southern California, although the pest also has been trapped in the Central Valley.

No feeding damage was observed during the growing season.

Beginning in September, a limited trapping program was conducted in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, Hawaii, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Arizona.

The USDA plans to conduct a full survey in 14 states in 2011.

The New Pest Advisory Group within USDA's Plant Protection and Quarantine approved a set of recommendations Sept. 17 to guide future efforts surrounding D. fovealis.

They include multi-state sentinel trapping, having PPQ work with the Agricultural Research Service to conduct research on potential larval host plants and collecting data from larval host surveys to determine whether the pest is likely to cause significant economic damage.

The European pepper moth has a wide host range, which includes 38 plant families. Among the specific plants are peppers, celery, elderberry, fig, pomegrante, bindweed, lambsquarter, spurge, geranium and poinsettia.

A rather non-descript brown moth, it can be confused with other North American crambid moths—known informally as grass moths. The crambid family includes sod webworms and snout moths.

To view a field screening aid, including pictures, click here.