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Estigmene acrea (Drury, 1773)
SALT MARSH MOTH
Saltmarsh Caterpillar; Estigmene mombasana (Rothschild, 1910)

Life   Insecta   Lepidoptera   Arctiidae   Estigmene

Estigmene acrea, Salt Marsh Moth
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Estigmene acrea, Salt Marsh Moth

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Estigmene acrea, Salt Marsh Moth, male
© John Pickering, 2004-2019 · 7
Estigmene acrea, Salt Marsh Moth, male
Estigmene acrea, Salt Marsh Moth, larva
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Estigmene acrea, Salt Marsh Moth, larva

Estigmene acrea, larva
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Estigmene acrea, larva
Estigmene acrea
© Copyright Ken Childs 2012 · 5
Estigmene acrea

Estigmene acrea
© Copyright Ken Childs 2012 · 5
Estigmene acrea
Estigmene acrea, Salt Marsh Moth, female
© John Pickering, 2004-2019 · 4
Estigmene acrea, Salt Marsh Moth, female

Estigmene acrea, Salt Marsh Moth, female
© John Pickering, 2004-2019 · 4
Estigmene acrea, Salt Marsh Moth, female
Estigmene acrea, Salt Marsh Moth, female
© John Pickering, 2004-2019 · 4
Estigmene acrea, Salt Marsh Moth, female

Estigmene acrea, Salt Marsh Moth
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Estigmene acrea, Salt Marsh Moth
Estigmene acrea
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Estigmene acrea

Estigmene acrea
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Estigmene acrea
Estigmene acrea
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Estigmene acrea

Estigmene acrea
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Estigmene acrea
Estigmene acrea
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Estigmene acrea

Associates · map
FamilyScientific name @ source (records)
Davidiellaceae  Cladosporium herbarum @ BPI (1)
Entomophthoraceae  Empusa aulicae @ BPI (2)

Empusa gryllii @ BPI (1)

Entomophthora aulicae @ BPI (1)

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common name: saltmarsh caterpillar
scientific name: Estigmene acrea (Drury) (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Erebidae: Arctiinae)

Distribution - Descripton and Life Cycle - Host Plants - Damage - Natural Enemies - Management - Selected References

Distribution (Back to Top)

The saltmarsh caterpillar, Estigmene acrea (Drury), is a native insect found throughout the United States. Its distribution extends to Central America, and in Canada it has damaged crops in Ontario and Quebec. As a pest, it is most common in the southern United States, particularly the southwest.

Adult saltmarsh caterpillars, Estigmene acrea (Drury).

Figure 1. Adult saltmarsh caterpillars, Estigmene acrea (Drury). Photograph by John L. Capinera , University of Florida.

Description and Life Cycle (Back to Top)

A generation can be completed in 35 to 40 days under ideal conditions, but most reports from the field suggest about six weeks between generations. The number of generations per year is estimated at one in the northern states to three to four in the south. Overwintering reportedly occurs in the mature larval stage, with pupation early in the spring. Saltmarsh caterpillars usually are infrequent early in the season, but may attain high numbers by autumn.

Eggs: The eggs are nearly spherical in shape, and measure about 0.6 mm in diameter. Initially they are yellow, but soon become grayish in color. Females commonly produce 400 to 1000 eggs in one or more clusters. It is not unusual to find a single egg cluster containing 1200 eggs. Eggs hatch in four to five days.

Eggs of the saltmarsh caterpillar, Estigmene acrea (Drury).

Figure 2. Eggs of the saltmarsh caterpillar, Estigmene acrea (Drury). Photograph by John L. Capinera , University of Florida.

Larvae: There are five to seven instars. The following description is based on Hinds (1904), who observed five instars in Texas. Upon hatching the larvae are about 2 mm in length, brown in color, and bear numerous long over the entire length of the body. During this stage, and the subsequent instar, larvae feed gregariously on the lower leaf surface, usually failing to eat entirely through the leaf. Larvae attain a length of about 10 mm during the first instar. Second instars display longitudinal stripes, usually brown, yellowish, and white, and the body hairs become darker. Larvae attain a length of about 15 mm. During the third instar, larvae become darker, but a consistent color pattern is not apparent. Larvae attain a length of about 30 mm. In the fourth and fifth instars, larvae maintain the same general appearance as earlier stages, but grow to a length of about 45 and 55 mm, respectively. Larvae usually are dark, but sometimes are yellowish brown or straw colored. The larvae are marked by long body hairs, and these also vary in color from cream or grayish to yellowish brown to dark brown. Although they are decidedly hairy, the hairs are not as dense or as stiff as those found in woollybear larvae. Duration of larval development was 24 to 37 days. In contrast, Young and Sifuentes (1959) and Capinera (1978b) reported six instars in Mexico and Colorado, respectively. Development time of the six instars was about 3, 2, 2, 2, 3, and 8 days, respectively, for a larval period of 20 to 22 days, depending on diet. However, some studies have reported longer larval periods, up to about 45 days.

Aggregation of young saltmarsh caterpillars, Estigmene acrea (Drury).

Figure 3. Aggregation of young saltmarsh caterpillars, Estigmene acrea (Drury). Photograph by John L. Capinera , University of Florida.

Young saltmarsh caterpillar, Estigmene acrea (Drury).

Figure 4. Young saltmarsh caterpillar, Estigmene acrea (Drury). Photograph by John L. Capinera , University of Florida.

Intermediate stage of the saltmarsh caterpillar, Estigmene acrea (Drury).

Figure 5. Intermediate stage of the saltmarsh caterpillar, Estigmene acrea (Drury). Photograph by John L. Capinera , University of Florida.

Mature saltmarsh caterpillar, Estigmene acrea (Drury).

Figure 6. Mature saltmarsh caterpillar, Estigmene acrea (Drury). Photograph by John L. Capinera , University of Florida.

Larvae are active dispersers, a habit that is relatively uncommon among caterpillars. Most commonly, late instar larvae are found individually or in large numbers ambling over the soil, searching for suitable food. Damage to margins of crop fields often occurs as such larvae desert drying weeds for irrigated crops. Stracener (1931) reported that young larvae drop readily from plants when disturbed, spin a strand of silk, and are blown considerable distances by wind. Frequency of distribution by wind is unknown.

Pupae: Pupation occurs on the soil among leaf debris, in a thin cocoon formed from silken hairs interwoven with caterpillar body hairs. The dark brown pupae measures about 30 mm in length. Duration of the pupal stage is about 12 to 14 days.

Pupa (above) and adult of the saltmarsh caterpillar, Estigmene acrea (Drury).

Figure 7. Pupa (above) and adult of the saltmarsh caterpillar, Estigmene acrea (Drury). Photograph by Lyle J. Buss , University of Florida.

Adult: Adults are fairly large moths, measuring 3.5 to 4.5 cm in wingspan, and are distinctive in appearance. They are predominantly white in color, although generally the wings bear numerous, small, irregular black spots. The hind wings of the male are yellow; those of the female are white. The underside of the male's front wings may also be tinted yellowish. Most of the abdominal segments are yellow, and bear a series of large black spots dorsally. Mating occurs the evening following emergence, and egg deposition the next evening. Females usually live only four to five days, but may produce more than one cluster of eggs.

Adult female saltmarsh caterpillar, Estigmene acrea (Drury).

Figure 8. Adult female saltmarsh caterpillar, Estigmene acrea (Drury). Photograph by John L. Capinera , University of Florida.

Adult male saltmarsh caterpillar, Estigmene acrea (Drury).

Figure 9. Adult male saltmarsh caterpillar, Estigmene acrea (Drury). Photograph by John L. Capinera , University of Florida.

Host Plants (Back to Top)

Saltmarsh caterpillar's peculiar common name is derived from initial description as a pest of salt-grass hay grown in the vicinity of Boston. This is an anomaly, and despite the wide host range of this insect, grasses are not particularly preferred. Broadleaf weeds are the normal host plants, but larvae commonly disperse from these late in the growing season to damage vegetable and field crops. Vegetables injured include asparagus, bean, beet, cabbage, carrot, celery, corn, lettuce, onion, pea, tomato, turnip, and probably others. Field crops damaged are alfalfa, clover, cotton, soybean, sugarbeet, and tobacco. The favored weed host seems to be pigweed, Amaranthus spp., but many others may be consumed, including anglepod, Gonolobus sp.; sicklepod, Cassia tora ; dog fennel, Eupatorium capillifolium ; ground cherry, Physalis spp.; and mallow, Anoda sp.

Damage (Back to Top)

Larvae are defoliators. Young larvae feed gregariously and skeletonize foliage. Older larvae are solitary and eat large holes in leaf tissue. Older larvae may disperse long distances in search of food, sometimes moving in large numbers. Commonly this is associated with maturation of cotton or weeds in the autumn. Thus, these caterpillars tend to be damaging to fall-planted crops. Foliage consumption at least doubles with each succeeding instar, and mature larvae can consume over 13 sq cm of thick-leaved foliage, such as sugarbeet, daily (Capinera 1978). Capinera et al. (1987) measured bean foliage consumption by each instar, and recorded over 400 sq cm of foliage consumed during the life of a caterpillar. Further, they estimated that one to 1.5 mature caterpillars per plant could inflict 20% defoliation to a bean plant, a level adequate to cause yield loss.

Natural Enemies (Back to Top)

Saltmarsh caterpillar larvae frequently are parasitized, particularly by tachinids (Diptera: Tachinidae). In Arizona, the most common parasitoids were Exorista mellea (Walker) and Leschenaultia adusta (Loew), but Gymnocarcelia ricinorum Townsend and Lespesia archippivora (Riley) were also observed (Taylor 1954). Jackson et al. (1970) documented the biology and importance of L. adusta . Arnaud (1978) reports additional species of tachinids associated with saltmarsh caterpillar.

Hymenopteran parasitoids are known from both the larval and egg stages (Taylor 1954, Taylor and Stern 1971), and include Apanteles diacrisiae Gahan (Braconidae); Therion fuscipenne (Norton), T. morio (Fabricius), Casinaria genuina (Norton), Hyposoter rivalis (Cresson) (all Ichneumonidae); Psychophagus omnivorus (Walker), Tritneptis hemerocampae Vierick (both Pteromalidae); Anastatus reduvii (Howard) (Eupelmidae); and Trichogramma semifumatum (Perkins) (Trichogrammatidae).

A cytoplasmic polyhedrosis virus is known (Langridge 1983), but there are little data on importance.

General predators such as lady beetles (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), softwinged flower beetles (Coleoptera: Melydridae), and assassin bugs (Hemiptera: Reduviidae) prey on these caterpillars, but are not thought to be very important in population regulation (Young and Sifuentes 1959).

Management (Back to Top)

Insecticides are commonly used to suppress saltmarsh caterpillars if they become abundant in vegetable crops. Baits are not effective. Most damage occurs at field margins as larvae disperse into crops from nearby senescent vegetation. Both chemical insecticides and Bacillus thuringiensis are recommended. Physical barriers, including ditches or trenches with steep sides, can be used to interrupt invasion of crops by caterpillars.

Selected References (Back to Top)

  • Arnaud Jr PH. 1978. A host-parasite catalog of North American Tachinidae (Diptera). U.S. Department of Agriculture Miscellaneous Publication 1319. 860 pp.
  • Capinera JL. 1978. Consumption of sugarbeet foliage by the saltmarsh caterpillar. Journal of Economic Entomology 71: 661-663.
  • Capinera JL. 2001. Handbook of Vegetable Pests. Academic Press, San Diego. 729 pp.
  • Capinera JL, Horton DR, Epsky ND, Chapman PL. 1987. Effects of plant density and late-season defoliation on yield of field beans. Environmental Entomology 16: 274-280.
  • Jackson CG, Bryan DE, Butler GD Jr, Patana R. 1970. Development, fecundity, and longevity of Leschenaultia adusta , a tachinid parasite of the salt-marsh caterpillar. Journal of Economic Entomology 63: 1396-1397.
  • Langridge WHR. 1983. Characterization of a cytoplasmic polyhedrosis virus from Estigmene acrea (Lepidoptera). Journal of Invertebrate Pathology 42: 259-263.
  • Stracener CL. 1931. Economic importance of the salt-marsh caterpillar ( Estigmene acraea Drury) in Louisiana. Journal of Economic Entomology 24: 835-838.
  • Taylor EA. 1954. Parasitization of the salt-marsh caterpillar in Arizona. Journal of Economic Entomology 47: 525-530.
  • Taylor TA, Stern VM. 1971. Host-preference studies with the egg parasite Trichogramma semifumatum (Hymenoptera: Trichogrammatidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 64: 1381-1390.
  • Young WR, Sifuentes JA. 1959. Biological and control studies on Estigmene acrea (Drury), a pest of corn in the Yaqui Valley, Sonora, Mexico. Journal of Economic Entomology 52: 1109-1111.
Author: John L. Capinera , University of Florida
Photographs: John L. Capinera and Lyle J. Buss , University of Florida
Web Design: Don Wasik, Jane Medley
Publication Number: EENY-218
Publication Date: July 2001. Latest Revision: November 2005. Reviewed: April 2016.

Copyright University of Florida ~ An Equal Opportunity Institution
Featured Creatures Editor and Coordinator: Jennifer L. Gillett-Kaufman , University of Florida


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http://www.afromoths.net/species_by_code/ESTIACRE/ ---> http://www.afromoths.net/species/show/29779

Estigmene acrea (Drury, 1773)

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FAMILY Erebidae
SUBFAMILY Arctiinae
GENUS Estigmene
SPECIES acrea
AUTHOR (Drury, 1773)
ORIGINAL COMBINATION Pha.[laena] Bomb.[yx] Acrea
TYPE LOCALITY [U.S.A.], New York, Maryland, Virginia, vi and ix.
GEOGRAPHICAL COORDINATES /
TYPE SPECIMEN(S) Not stated.
STATUS Species
PUBLICATION Drury D. 1770—[1773]. Illustrations of Natural History, wherein are exhibited upwards of two hundred and forty figures of Exotic Insects, according to their different genera, very few of which have hitherto been figured by any author, being engraved and coloured from (etc.) - — 1:i—xxvii, 1—130, pls 1—50.
PAGINATION 7, index; pl. 3, fig. 2 Bhl

Species pictures

Synonyms

NAME AUTHOR STATUS
mombasana (Rothschild, 1910) Synonym of species

Species Distribution

COUNTRY PROVINCE/STATE PUBLICATION PAGE
Congo, the Democratic Republic of the North Kivu Kiriakoff S. G. 1963a. Exploration du Parc Albert. Deuxième série. Lepidoptera Heterocera (partim). - — 16(3):73—124. 107 (as mombasana)
Kenya   Rothschild W. 1910a. Catalogue of the Arctianae in the Tring Museum, with notes and descriptions of new species. - Novitates Zoologicae 17:1—85, 113—171. 154 (as mombasana)

Notes:   Nearctic: Canada, U.S.A.; Neotropical: Colombia, Mexico. This species is probably adventive in Africa (see Goodger & Watson 1995: 9).

Host Plants

Unknown

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Number of matches : 3
Query: SELECT * FROM img WHERE ready=1 and taxon like "Estigmene acrea%" and (lifeform != "specimen_tag" OR lifeform != "Animal") ORDER BY taxon

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Estigmene acrea
Estigmene acrea
Salt Marsh Moth
ID: 9121 3261 2921 0127 [detail]
Dr. Antonio J. Ferreira
© 1999 California Academy of Sciences

Estigmene acrea
Estigmene acrea
Salt Marsh Moth
ID: 1338 3152 3756 0120 [detail]
H. Vannoy Davis
© 2005 California Academy of Sciences

Estigmene acrea
Estigmene acrea
ID: 7777 7777 0910 1067 [detail]
© 2010 W. Middlekauff

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