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Species Page

tomato pinworm

Keiferia lycopersicella


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Host plants / species affected

Main hosts

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Solanum lycopersicum (tomato)

List of symptoms / signs

Fruit - internal feeding
Fruit - internal feeding
Fruit - lesions: black or brown
Leaves - internal feeding
Leaves - internal feeding


The larva causes mines on the leaves, visible mainly on the upper surface. These mines widen during the second larval instar forming a translucent blotch. As the larva matures the leaf is distorted and spun together, flowers are also affected in this way. In fruits the larval entry hole can be detected, and galleries can be seen just beneath the surface; rot may also occur.

Prevention and control


Usually control methods are directed towards all tomato pests, and those for K. lycopersicella have to be set in that context. Efforts to control other pests may have a beneficial effect on K. lycopersicella because its natural enemies are detrimentally affected.

Cultural Control

Plant tissue, infested fruits and packing materials where larvae may pupate should be destroyed.

Price and Poe (1977) investigated the effect of staking and artificial mulching of tomato plants on insect pest populations in southern Florida. They concluded that damage by all species was less severe on staked plants. Schalk and Robbins (1987) found that although aluminium mulches had other benefits, fruit injury increased due to attack by tomato pinworm. The effects of planting time and postharvest practices on K. lycopersicella were observed by Pena and Waddill (1985). Field plots were planted on five different dates between October 1980 and February 1981. The February 1981 planting had 25 times more fruit damage per plant than earlier plantings; the lowest infestation occurred with October planting. After harvesting, southern Florida fields are usually either abandoned, or mowed and disced; volunteer (self-sown) tomatoes growing on plots on which these practices were performed immediately after the main harvest showed 85% more pinworm injuries/m² than those on plots where these practices were performed 2-3 months after harvest. Fewer volunteer plants were produced after harvesting the October-November planted crops than after later plantings. In another study, it was observed that when Phaseolus vulgaris or squashes were planted immediately after discing and mowing a tomato site, the number of volunteer tomato plants and larval levels of K. lycopersicella were both higher than when the field was just disced or abandoned.

Host-Plant Resistance

Schuster (1977) tested seedlings of 235 plant introductions of Lycopersicon for resistance to K. lycopersicella in glasshouses in Florida, USA. In initial screenings, accessions of L. pimpinellifolium and L. esculentum x L. pimpinellifolium were more susceptible than the commercial tomato cultivar Walter (L. esculentum), while those of L. peruvianum, L. peruvianum var. humifusum, L. esculentum x L. peruvianum, L. cheesmanii f. minor and L. glandulosum were less susceptible. Selections of L. hirsutum and L. hirsutum f. glabratum were the most resistant and had 25-50% less damage and 50-75% fewer larvae than Walter. In secondary screenings, accessions of L. cheesmanii f. minor, L. glandulosum, L. hirsutum and L. hirsutum f. glabratum had less damage and fewer larvae per plant than Walter.

Biological Control

The only attempt at biological control was made in Trinidad where K. lycopersicella has become prominent since the 1970s on tomato and aubergine, probably owing to insecticide usage. There, because native parasitoids were ineffective, parasitoids were imported from Hawaii in 1979-80 and releases made of three; of Pseudapanteles dignus, Apanteles scutellaris and Parahormius pallipes, but no recoveries were made.

Chemical Control

Due to the variable regulations around (de-)registration of pesticides, we are for the moment not including any specific chemical control recommendations. For further information, we recommend you visit the following resources:

This information is part of a full datasheet available in the Crop Protection Compendium (CPC); For information on how to access the CPC, click here.


K. lycopersicella is a severe pest of tomatoes locally in Central America and adjoining states, especially when insecticides have reduced populations of its natural enemies.

Borges (1983) describes it as a very severe pest of tomato, causing large yield losses. Schuster et al. (1996) state that K. lycopersicella is an important pest of tomatoes in the southern and south-western USA and in Mexico. Ramirez et al. (1989) demonstrated in trials that there was a significant relationship between infestation in the first three leaves and the yield. For each 10 mines in the first leaf, in the first two leaves and in the first three leaves there was a reduction in yield of 24.5, 12.9 and 9.4%, respectively. When the market price of tomatoes was considered, the economic threshold was 0.1-0.2 mines in the first leaf when the price was high, 0.2-0.4 mines in the first two leaves when the price was medium and 0.3-0.6 mines in the first three leaves when the price was low.