Tomato Leaf Miner, Tuta absoluta

Tuta absoluta is one of the most economically important pests of tomato and is posing a serious threat to the fruits production across the Mediterranean and African regions.

This pest is crossing borders rapidly and devastating tomato production substantially. Originating from South America, Tuta absoluta is finding the shores of the Mediterranean a perfect new home where it can breed between 10-12 generations in a year. The presence of Tuta absoluta has been reported in Italy, France, Malta, the United Kingdom, Greece, Switzerland, Portugal, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Albania. Tuta absoluta has been an established pest of South America since the 1980’s.

Tuta absoluta has the ability to attack the tomato at all stages. That’s why Russell IPM have developed solutions to deal with this pest at various stages of infestation.

The Tomato leaf miner is a serious pest of tomato. This insect can also attack potato, aubergine, peppers and solanaceous weeds. It originated from South America and was recently detected in Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Larvae produce large galleries in leaves, burrow into stalks, apical buds and green and ripe fruits.

Tuta absoluta poses a serious threat to protected cultivation of tomato in the Mediterranean region. It is capable of reducing up to 80-100% of total crop yield. Russell IPM manufactures and supplies Tuta absoluta pheromone lure trap for monitoring, mass trapping and lure and kill solutions.

Tomato Leaf Miner

Adult Tuta absoluta moths are 5-7 mm long and have a typical wingspan of 8-10 mm. The adults have bead like antennae, silverfish-grey scale wings with characteristic black spots on the anterior wing. They are nocturnal and usually seek refuge between leaves during the day. The pest may overwinter as eggs, pupae or adults.

Adult females lay about a total of ~ 250 eggs during their lifetime. Eggs are small cylindrical, creamy white to yellow and ~0.35 mm long. Tuta absoluta will deposit its eggs on the underside of leaves or stems. Hatching takes place after 4-6 days.

The total life cycle is completed in 30–40 days. There up to 12 generations per year.

The larvae of Tuta are cream in colour with a characteristic dark head. There are four larval instars. The larval period lasts 10–15 days. Tuta absoluta has a high reproductive potential. Larvae will not go in to diapause stage if food is available.

Pupae are brown in colour. Pupation takes place within 10 days on the leaf surface, in mines or in soil.

Nature of Damage

Tuta absoluta is a severe pest which can cause total crop losses.

The young larvae penetrate into the tomato fruits, leaves or stems on which they feed and develop, thus creating conspicuous mines and galleries.

Fruits can be attacked as soon as they are formed, and the galleries bored inside them can be invaded by secondary pathogens leading to fruit rot.

On leaves, larvae feed only on mesophyll tissues, leaving the epidermis intact. Leaf mines are irregular and may later become necrotic due to secondary infection. Galleries in stems alter the general development of the plants.

Tomato plants can be attacked at any developmental stage, from seedlings to mature plants. The pest is generally easily found because it prefers apical buds, flowers or new fruits, on which the black frass is visible.

On potato, only aerial parts are attacked and Tuta absoluta does not develop on tubers.

Fruit damaged by Tuta absoluta becomes unsuitable for consumption.


The tomato leaf miner, Tuta absoluta

The following notes are guidelines of general nature and meant to give the user a head start in implementing pheromone monitoring program. Local conditions and practices can vary and can lead to customization of the program.

Mass Trapping

Russell IPM recommends TUA-Optima and TUA-500 for mass trapping of Tuta absoluta particularly in protected tomato cultivation. The high capture rate observed with these pheromones helps to reduce Tuta population in greenhouses – particularly if insect exclusion nets and tight doors are also used. Mass trapping is a technique that involves placing a higher number of traps in the crop field in various strategic positions to remove a sufficiently high proportion of male insects from the pest population. It is widely used in conjunction with other control measures, as an integrated pest management programme to achieve an acceptable level of damage and to reduce the reliance on insecticide treatments. Mass trapping is a potential option for open field production. However, for practical reasons, application in protected agriculture has a higher chance of success.

Use the pheromone in conjunction with Ferolite, a self-contained, ready-to-use solar powered trap which incorporates a specific wavelength of light in addition to the Tuta pheromone lure.

Tuta Roll

TutaRoll and Tuta+ are alternative innovative solutions for the management of Tuta absoluta. These products are sticky rolls with the Tuta absoluta pheromone incorporated into the sticky glue with the pheromone gradually released from the adhesive layer. Russell IPM offers two types of sticky rolls, one is the clear sticky film TutaRoll and the other is the yellow coloured Tuta+. The clear film TutaRoll is suitable for green houses where beneficial insects are being used as biological control.

Optiroll Tuta+

Trap Density
Optiroll Tuta+ is a yellow sticky roll where Tuta absoluta pheromone is incorporated with glue and releases from the adhesive layer. Tutaroll+ is specially designed for greenhouses where beneficials are not in use as a biological control agent. It is one cost effective, pre-baited, ready to use trap. This roll can be used for the mass trapping and control of Tuta absoluta in green houses.
• Captures Tuta absoluta and captures white fly and aphids.
• Can be used for mass trapping as well as monitoring.
• A Safe, simple and environmentally sound solution.

Biological Control

Trap Position
The following bio-agents could be used to control Tuta absoluta:
• Trichogramma pertiosum
• Trichogramma achaeae
• Macrolophus pygmaeus
• Nesidiocoris tenuis
• Nabis pseudoferus

The egg parasitoid Trichogramma achaeae has been identified as a candidate for biological control of the South American Tomato Pinworm, Tuta absoluta. On greenhouse conditions a high efficacy, 91.74 % of damage reduction was obtained when releasing 30 adults/ plant (75 adults/ m2) every 3-4 days on August and September of 2008 in the southeast of Spain (Cabello et al., 2009).

The use of biological pest control, the damsel bug Nabis pseudoferus, is being studied to be applied in Spanish greenhouses. Two semi field bioassays on tomato plants, under controlled conditions, have shown an important reduction in the number of eggs of Tuta absoluta, between 92 and 96 %, when releasing 8 or 12 first stage nymphs of Nabis pseudoferus per plant (Cabello et al., 2009).

Microbial Control

Implementation of microbial control products, such as Antario from Russell IPM has shown success in Tuta control. The naturally occurring soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki has exhibited a satisfactory efficacy against Tuta absoluta larval infestations. Delayed application of Bacillus thuringiensis may cause higher insect mortality as the insects become more susceptible to the pathogen after a longer period of feeding on the resistant crop. It is reported that in a combined application of mass release of Trichogramma pertiosum and Bacillus thuringiensis resulted fruit damage only 2 % in South America.

The entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium anisopliae could be caused female’s mortality up to 37.14%. Laboratory studies indicated Beauveria bassiana could cause 68% larval mortality. Russell IPM produces Recharge containing active microbial compounds against Tuta absoluta.

Application Guidelines

The following notes are guidelines of general nature and meant to give the user a head start in implementing pheromone monitoring program. Local conditions and practices can vary and can lead to customization of the program.

Lures can be changed every 4 months to get the most accurate results.

Lures Handling
Pheromone lures are a very sensitive tool. They can be affected by exposure to high heat and direct sunlight. Direct contact with the hand may cause cross contamination leading to mixed catches in the trap. Some pollutants such as nicotine may have repellent effect of reducing trap catch.

Lure Storage
Store the pheromone in a cool, dry place. Service life may vary from 3-36 months depending on the storage temperature. See data sheet for details

Trap Selection

The delta trap is most sensitive trap to use for monitoring Tuta absoluta. However, locally made water trap could be used to capture adult moths. Do not re-use the trap to monitor different insects as this may lead to mixed catches.

Trap Density

Two traps per hectare (2 traps/ ha) for small holdings and in field of uneven topography. One trap for every two hectares of large scale fields of homogeneous lands.

Trap Position

Near the highest point of the plant using supporting posts approximately 1 meter high or higher if the crop is higher.

Data and Interpretation

Collect data weekly from the start of the flight of the over wintering generation. During the height of the population more frequent reading may be needed. Decisions on pesticide application should not be taken solely on the trap catch data. Climatic and biological considerations should be taken in account.

Chidege, M., Al-Zaidi, S., Hassan, N., Abisgold, J., Kaaya, E., & Mrogoro, S. (2016) First record of tomato leaf miner Tuta absoluta in Tanzania. Agriculture & Food Security 5:17

Insect pests have a devastating effect on food production. Such a phenomenon occurred in Ngabobo village, Ngarenanyuki, King’ori, in the Arumeru District of Tanzania, a key tomato production area, when boring Lepidoptera larvae were found on aerial parts of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) plants between 2014 and 2015. Larvae created blotched leaf galleries and superficial mines on fruits. The pest was identified as Tuta absoluta (Meyrick 1917) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) by the leaf and fruit damage symptoms inflicted, the adult morphology as well as using specific pheromone traps (TUA optima lure) against adult male Tuta absoluta.
This is the first record of tomato leaf miner Tuta absoluta (Meyrick 1917) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) in Tanzania worth to report. This information will help to design sustainable management tactics against this notorious pest of tomato in the country and the neighbouring countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

Read More 

Hassan, N et al., (2015) Integrated Pest Management of the Tomato Leaf Miner, Tuta absoluta (Metric) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) in Tomato Fields in Egypt. Egyptian journal of pest control 25(3):655-661 · October, 2015.

Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L) is universally one of the most important vegetable crops worldwide. In Egypt, the crop is cultivated annually in 2-3 plantations. The tomato leaf miner, Tuta absoluta (Meyrick) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) is one of the recent devastating pests attacking tomato crop in several countries. It is a new exotic pest in Egypt. A study to evaluate the efficacy of integrated control methods against the pest was carried out at Fayoum Governorate, Egypt in the tomato Nili plantation (September – December) of 2014. Based on the infestation reduction rate, release of the egg parasitoid, Trichogrammatoidea bactrae + mass trapping (plot B) showed best results, followed by the application with Biotrine and Fytomax + mass trapping (plot A) and lastly use of insecticides (control) (plot C): Respective seasonal rate of infestation was 9.2, 11.1 and 29.3%. Highest yield production and cost benefits were recorded in plot (B).

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