Return to: Key to Caterpillars
Adult - The wings of plume moths are lobed and fringed with long setae. The forewings are
bilobed, the lobes starting 2/3 from the wing base. The hindwings have three lobes. These moths
hold their wings out horizontally forming a sort of T shape or obliquely. The moths move the
wings up and down erratically. Plume moths have slender bodies and legs. They are white or
brownish with a wingspan from 15 to 25 mm. The members of this genus are very closely related,
and it is often difficult to determine which species is involved by adult specimens.
Egg - Some plume moths produce eggs that have distinct reticulations. In general, the eggs are oval or elliptical, glossy, white or pale yellow and about 0.4 mm long.
Larva - Larvae of plume moths can be recognized by their slender, stalk-like prolegs and their
setae with swollen tips. Full-grown larvae are about 10 mm long and tapered at both ends.
Pupa - Usually the pupae are not in cocoons. They vary from very light to brown, are angulate,
and are about 10 mm long.
Fig. 88. Plume moths. Geranium plume moth, Platyptilia pica Walsingham; Snapdragon plume
moth, Stenoptilodes antirrhina (Lange), Pterophoridae, LEPIDOPTERA
A, Geranium plume moth.
B, Snapdragon plume moth.
C, Plume moth caterpillar.
Distribution - Geranium plume moths and snapdragon plume moths appear to be most active in
California although they have been found in southeastern greenhouses that have received
cuttings from California.
Host Plants - Snapdragon and geranium are the two groups of ornamental plants most frequently
attacked by plume moths in the Southeast.
Damage - Plume moth larvae mine the leaves and feed externally on leaves, buds, and flower
Life History - There are more than 40 species of plume moths of the genus Platyptilia occurring
in the United States. Two of the economically important members of this genus are the geranium
plume moth and the snapdragon plume moth. Eggs are deposited singly any place on the plants,
but are usually laid on newly forming flowers or on the underside of leaves of terminal young
growth. Hatching occurs in 2 to 3 weeks. Young larvae mine in leaves and later burrow into the
stem, petioles, flowers, or seed pods. It takes 3 to 5 weeks for the larvae to develop through four
instars. The caterpillars emerge to form pupae that hang upside down on the plant. The adults
are weak fliers and usually remain on or near the host plant. The moths are most active during the
early evening. If hibernation is necessary, it is the adult stage that overwinters; however, the
plume moths are not well adapted for hibernation or aestivation.
Geranium cuttings should be inspected upon arrival for plume moth caterpillars. A
pyrethroid dip with a labeled pesticide should give adequate control of plume Moth caterpillars
without damaging the cuttings or affecting rooting percentage. For specific rates and chemical
control recommendations, see the current Cooperative Extension publications on ornamental
plant pest management.