Agriculture: Avocado Pest Management Guidelines

Orange Tortrix

  • Argyrotaenia franciscana (=A. citrana)
  • Description of the Pest

    (View photos to identify caterpillars)

    Orange tortrix (family Tortricidae) is an uncommon problem on avocados grown in coastal areas. It rarely is injurious at inland growing areas. Orange tortrix feeds on various weeds and crops including citrus, grape, and strawberry.

    Orange tortrix and amorbia adults resemble each other. They are orangish to tan moths with dark shading across their folded wings. At rest, their folded wings flare out at the tip so their overall shape resembles a bell. Orange tortrix adults are about 0.4 inch long, about one half the size of amorbia adults.

    Orange tortrix and amorbia females lay eggs overlapping in a mass. Orange tortrix lays eggs on the surface of young leaves, green twigs, or green fruit. Each egg is pale green, flat, oval, and has a finely reticulated surface. Females lay several clusters that range from a few eggs to over 150 eggs per mass. Eggs hatch in about 9 days.

    Larvae usually feed singly on shoot tips or on succulent leaves in nests they web together with silk. Larvae develop through 5 to 7 instars over about 40 days. They are about 0.08 inch (2 mm) long at hatching and about 0.5 inch long when mature. Larvae have a brownish or straw-colored head and prothoracic plate (the top of first segment behind the head). The variable body color is dark gray, greenish, straw-colored, or tan. Orange tortrix and amorbia larvae typically wriggle vigorously backwards or sideways when disturbed. Orange tortrix may drop to the ground or remain suspended from the leaf on a silken thread.

    Larvae form a dense silken cocoon where they pupate within webbed foliage. Adults emerge in about 1 to 3 weeks, depending on temperature. Orange tortrix has two to four generations per year, with all stages present throughout the year.


    Most larval chewing occurs within silken webs on outer-canopy shoots. During bloom, tiny larvae sometimes feed among flowers. Larvae also feed on green bark, girdling some twigs. White exudate may cover wounds on larger twigs. Least common is fruit feeding, but this is the economic damage. Fruit injury closely resembles damage from other avocado caterpillars, except that orange tortrix tends to chew deeper holes. Feeding near the stem end of fruit and on the stem may cause fruit to drop.


    Conserve natural enemies, which usually keep caterpillars below damaging levels. Modify cultural practices to reduce pest reproduction and survival. Avoid applying broad-spectrum or persistent insecticides for any pests. Caterpillar outbreaks commonly occur after spraying carbamate or organophosphate insecticides, which poison parasites and predators. When pesticides are warranted, limit application to the most infested spots to provide refuges from which natural enemies can recolonize after treatment.

    Biological Control

    (View photos)

    More than one dozen parasite species and various predators attack orange tortrix, including assassin bugs, birds, damsel bugs, lacewings, and pirate bugs. These usually provide excellent biological control. Parasites include Trichogramma platneri and several tachinid flies as described in the section AMORBIA. Common internal larval parasitic wasps are Apanteles aristoteliae (family Braconidae) and Exochus spp. (family Ichneumonidae).

    Organically Acceptable Methods

    Use biological control and sprays of Bacillus thuringiensis on an organically certified crop.

    Monitoring and Treatment Decisions

    Where caterpillar problems may occur, monitor during at least spring and summer. Orange tortrix is a nocturnal moth. Monitor areas where bright lights such as security lights are used because nocturnal moths are attracted to lights and lay eggs nearby.

    • Be sure to correctly distinguish the cause of any damage as other insects and certain abiotic disorders cause leaf holes resembling caterpillar chewing.
    • Correctly identify the species of caterpillars. Alternate host plants, damage potential, monitoring methods, and natural enemies vary depending on the species of caterpillar.
    • Look for caterpillar predators and larval diseases and parasitism. Natural enemy prevalence affects treatment decision making.

    See MONITORING CATERPILLARS AND THEIR NATURAL ENEMIES for details on identification and monitoring methods including inspecting foliage for caterpillars and their damage (timed counts), trapping adults, shaking foliage to dislodge larvae (primarily for avocado looper), or a combination of these methods.

    There are no established thresholds, and treatment for orange tortrix is rarely warranted. If sprays are needed, use Bacillus thuringiensis when larvae are small. Spraying with malathion often leads to outbreaks of other pests and is not recommended.

    Common name Amount per acre REI‡ PHI‡
    (Example trade name)   (hours) (days)
    Not all registered pesticides are listed. The following are ranked with the pesticides having the greatest IPM value listed first—the most effective and least harmful to natural enemies, honey bees, and the environment are at the top of the table. When choosing a pesticide, consider information relating to air and water quality, resistance management, and the pesticide's properties and application timing. Always read the label of the product being used.
      (various products) Label rates 4 0
      COMMENTS: Effective when used to control early instars of the caterpillar.
      (various products) Label rates 4 0
      COMMENTS: Effective when used to control early instars of the caterpillar.
    Restricted entry interval (REI) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing. Preharvest interval (PHI) is the number of days from treatment until harvest. In some cases the REI exceeds the PHI. The longer of these two intervals is the minimum time that must elapse before harvest.
    # Acceptable for use on organically grown produce.
    1 Rotate chemicals with a different mode-of-action group number, and do not use products with the same mode-of-action group number more than twice per season to help prevent the development of resistance. For example, the organophosphates have a group number of 1B; chemicals with a 1B group number should be alternated with chemicals that have a group number other than 1B. Mode-of-action group numbers are assigned by IRAC (Insecticide Resistance Action Committee).

    Important Links

    Text Updated: 09/16
    Treatment Table Updated: 09/16