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Etiella moths

Grower, Bronwyn Hunt, has observed a large number of Etiella moths (Etiella behrii), west of Kerang in the Mallee district of Victoria. Also known as the lucerne seed web moth, Etiella is a sporadic but serious pest of lentils in southern Australia, and can cause yield losses and damage grain if not controlled. Newly hatched larvae bore into immature pods within 24 hours of hatching and begin feeding on developing grain. Once inside the pods, the caterpillars are protected from insecticide applications so sprays must target adult moths before egg lay commences. Etiella also attack lucerne and occasionally clover, peas and lupins.

Bronwyn says the late arrival of Etiella moths has meant spraying should not be required in this instance. Although there are still many soft green pods at present, Bronwyn reports the lentil crops are drying off quite quickly and will be harvested in the next week. In lentils, eggs are commonly laid under the calyx and hatch within 4-7 days depending on temperature.

Etiella moths are 10-15 mm long, slender, grey-brown in colour and have a prominent beak. The forewings have a distinct white stripe running the full length along the front edge. Caterpillars are cream-pale green in colour with several pink-red stripes running along the back. They have a red-brown coloured head and grow up to 15 mm long.

Sweep netting is a common method used for estimating Etiella moth numbers in crops. Lentil crops should be sampled at least once a week during podding for evidence of Etiella activity. A minimum of 3 groups of 20 sweeps should be randomly undertaken within each crop. Recommended action thresholds are 1-2 Etiella moths in 20 sweeps. Pheromone traps and light traps are also useful monitoring techniques.

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