Pectinophora gossypiella

Scientific Name Pectinophora gossypiella (Saunders)
Common Names English: Pink bollworm; German: Roter Baumwoll-Kapselwurm; Spanish: Gusano rosado del algodon; French: Ver rose du cotonnier
Description The body of the larva is up to 10 mm (0.39 inch) long. Young larvae are ivory-white, but they later develop pink bands; the last instar before pupation is reddish-pink. The adults have grayish-brown wings with a wingspan of about 20 mm (0.78 inch).



The newly-hatched larvae feed externally on cotton bolls or flower buds for some hours, leaving typical marks. Then they bore themselves in, feed on the seed, and soil the lint with their frass. An individual larva may damage several bolls. The damaged bolls mature early and fail to open. After 2-3 weeks, the larva pupates inside the boll or emerges through a hole of approx. 2-3 mm (0.078-0.12 inch) diameter at its top, and then searches for a hiding-place either on the plant, or on the ground, where it will build its cocoon. Sometimes, several flower buds are spun together by numerous larvae, such that the petals cannot open properly.


At the time of flowering, the female moths lay several hundred eggs each in small groups on young cotton bolls, flower buds, or in the space between these and the bracts. The larvae hatch after about 5-10 days. They pass through 4 instars within approximately 3 weeks, then they build a cocoon for pupation. This either happens directly inside the boll or pod, or - after dropping to the ground - the larvae hide some centimetres deep in the soil or under litter. About 10-14 days later, the adult moths emerge. They are active at night only.

Under optimal conditions, the life-cycle can be completed in about a month, so 5 generations may occur per season. In areas with cold winters, the larvae spend diapause mostly in cocoons in the soil, but also in stored seed. They are very resistant in this state, and can survive thus for more than two years. In milder climates, the larvae may overwinter inside pods or bolls left over after harvest; in a few tropical areas, there is no diapause at all.


Additional Crop Information

Mainly cotton, but also okra and hibiscus.

Agricultural Importance

Pink bollworm is found in nearly all cotton-growing countries. In some of them, losses of about a quarter of the crop are quite common, and sometimes they are even much higher.


Useful non-chemical contribution to Integrated Weed Management

Larvae and pupae are sensitive to high soil temperatures. Stalks and all other harvest residues should be removed. Cultivating the soil after the larvae have moved to the ground has been found to reduce their survival rate significantly.

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