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U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
BUREAU OF ENTOMOLOGY-BULLETIN No. 126.
L. 0. HOWARD. Enlomologiul and Chief of Bureau.
THE ABUTILON MOTH.
F. H. CHITTENDEN, Sc. D.,
In Charge of Truck Crop and Stored Product Insect Investigations.
ISSUED DECEMBER 6, 1913.
, GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE.
BUREAU OF ENTOMOLOG Y.
L. 0. HOWARD, Entomologist and Chief of Bureau.
C. L. MARLATT, Entomologist and Acting Chief in Absence of Chief.
R. S. CLIFTON, Executive Assistant.
W. F. TASTET, Chief Clerk.
F. H. CHrrITTENDEN, inT charge of truck crop and stored product insect investigations.
A. D. HoPKINS, in charge of forest insect investigations.
W. D. HUNTER, in charge of southern field crop insect investigations.
F. i.M WVEBSTER, in charge of cereal and forage insect investigations.
A. L. QUAINTANCE, in charge of deciduous fruit insect investigations.
E F. PHILLIPS, in charge of bite culture.
D. M. ROGERS, in charge of preventing spread of moths, field work.
ROLLA P. CURRIE, in charge of editorial work.
MABEL COLCORD, in charge of library.
TRUCK CROP AND STORED PRODUCT INSECT INVESTIGATIONS.
F. H. CHnTrENDEN, in charge.
C. H. POPENOE, WM. B. PARKER, H. M. RUSSELL, M. M. HIGH, JOHN E. GaF, FRED
A. JOHNSTON, C. F. STAHL, F. B. MILLIKEN, D. E. FuNK, A. B. DUCKErTT, C. P.
CLAUSEN, entomological assistants.
I. J. CONDIT, R. S. VAILE, collaborators in California.
W. N. ORD, collaborator in Oregon.
THos. H. JONES, collaborator in Porto Rico.
MARION T. VAN HORN, PAULINE M. JOHNSON, ANITA M. BALLINGER, CECILIA SISco,
Habits and recent injury ..........................--------....................... Pa
Synonym y. ... .. .... ..... ........................................... 6
Description .............................................................. 6
The adult ..--....---................................................. -------------------------------------------------..... 7
The egg ....-..... ............... .............................--------------------------------------------------.... 7
The lar a ............................................................ 8
The pupa .-. ..- .............................................------------------------------------------------... 8
Experiments in control ............................................... 9
Bibliography ............................................................. 10
PLATE I. Abutilon plant, showing almost complete defoliation by larva of the
Abutilon moth (Cosmophila erosa) ....-----------------------------.......................... 6
It. Leaf of Abutilon, showing skeletonizing of leaves due to larvae of the
Abutilon moth ...............................................-------------------------------------------- 6
III. Abutilon plant, showing increased growth after destruction of larve
of the Abutilon moth by spraying with nicotine solution ......... 6
IV. The Abutilon moth (Cosmophila erosa): Adult, larva, pupa-------...-- 8
V. Abutilon leaf, shoi ing larvae of the Abutilon moth; pupa on leaf 8
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THE ABUTILON MOTH.
(Cosmophila erosa Hubn.)
HABITS AND RECENT INJURY.
During September, 1909, while stationed at Diamond Springs, Va.,
Mr. C. H. Popenoe noticed that the leaves of okra, hollyhock, and
Abutilon on the farm of the Virginia Truck Experiment Station
were being badly injured by the Abutilon moth (Cosmophila erosa
Hfbn.). Many larvt and pupae were present, defoliating the plants
mentioned. The insect occurred in large numbers and in all stages,
so that it actually was a serious pest. From this lot moths were
reared November 13, 1909. In October of the same year Mr. E. G.
Smyth, who relieved Mr. Popenoe at Diamond Springs, noticed the
attacks of this species on hollyhocks and Abutilon throughout that
During early August, 1912, the writer noticed this species at work
on the grounds of the Department of Agriculture, causing very
serious injury to Abutilon. The previous year the species was quite
abundant on hollyhocks, as mentioned, and "peppered" them with
holes. The larval work on Abutilon was quite different. The larve
were mostly small when observed, and their place of concealment was
not at first found, but larvae were obtained by inserting an umbrella
under the leaves and shaking them down. The heat at the time the
observations were made was most intense, and the insects were un-
Later, August 30, 1912, the writer observed the work of this insect
on Abutilon, and in a short time the larvae could be obtained from
the leaves in great numbers, as they were rapidly defoliating the
plants. After enough larvae were taken away for rearing purposes
the plants were sprayed under the writer's direction by Mr. A. B.
Duckett, September 10. After the spraying, which appeared to be
quite successful, it was found that a few larvme were still present on
the plants October 3. They ranged in size from quite small to half
grown, and a few pupae were still on the plants.
Mr. J. F. Strauss collected this species August 20, 1912, on Hibiscus
esculentus at Washington, D. C. In all cases observed the 12-spotted
cucumber beetle (Diabrotica duodecimpusnctata Oliv.) caused some of
the injury, while ants also invaded the open bolls, which they were
devouring. He noted that one larva pupated August 21 and emerged
6 THE ABUTILON MOTH. I
as adult August 29, or in 8 days. Another pupated August 21 Cid J
emerged August 30, or in 9 days. That was during a hot period, ::
and a shorter time was taken to transform than would be necessary'.
at a cooler time.-"
The opinion expressed by Riley that this is exclusively a southern
species was modified somewhat by the same author when he foun4.j
the eggs and larvae quite abundantly in September, 1882, on Abufils-
avicenn. at several localities in the District of Columbia. .
On September 21 the largest larva was nearly an inch long, and on October $ iti.:
spun up and transformed to pupa. The first moth issued October 15, and on October
16 several moths were captured at sugar. On October 22 quite a large number of I
larvaw of all sizes, from those just hatched to the nearly full-grown individuals, wete '1
found feeding on the same plant at Ivy City, D. C., and October 25 eggs and young .
larvae were found on the leaves of Malva rotundifolia at Giesboro Point, D. C.
The moths from these larvmse began issuing December 1, and more than a dozen had
made their appearance by December 4.
In the writer's experience this species appears to prefer Abutilon
to hollyhock. It does not spread to any great extent, and hibiscus
may not prove to be its natural food plant.
This species was last seen on October 12, 1912, when Mr. M. M.
High sent one larva found on cowpea leaves at Gulfport, Miss., and
on October 31, 1912, when a moth issued from our own material at
Washington, D. C.
A portion of a badly infested Abutilon plant is shown in Plate I :1
and a skeletonized leaf in Plate II. ;
This species has been described under several different names, at,.
shown in the following synonymy, adapted from Hampson (8):
Cosmophila erosa Hfibn., Zutr. Samml. exot. Scbmett., vol. 2, p. 19, figs. 287, 28"., '
Cosnmophila xanthindyma Boisd., Faun. Ent. Mad., p. 94, p]. 13, fig. 7; Mocrep,. f
Lep. Ceyl., vol. 3, p. 155, figs. 1, 1 a, b (larva); C. & S. No. 2234.
Cosmophila indica Guen., Spec. Gen. Lep., Noct., vol. 2, p. 396.
Cosmophila auragoides Guen., Spec. Gen. Lep., Noct., vol. 2, p. 397.
Cirrredia veriolosa Walk., List Lep. Ins. Brit. Mus., pt. 11, p. 750. ""
Cirrcedia edenatat Walk., List Lep. Ins. Brit. Mus., pt. 11, p. 750. .
It has, however, been generally mentioned in literature as AnbmW.a
erosa HUbn. H
The moth so closely resembles the cotton moth (Alabama arw,"f-
lacea Hiibn.) of the Southern States as to be readily mistaken for itf:`2
by anyone familiar with the latter. The egg closely resembles that .:
of the cotton moth. The larva bears some resemblance to that of
the cotton moth, but more to that of the cabbage looper (Autographsu |
brassicae Riley), especially on account of the structure of the legs, an: I
Bul. 126, Bureau of Entomology, U. S. Dept. of Agniculture.
ABUTILON PLANT, SHOWING ALMOST COMPLETE DEFOLIATION BY LARVAE
OF THE ABUTILON MOTH (COSMOPHILA EROSA) AT WASHINGTON, D. C.
B ui. I .'" ,jr. 1ju n', E r,n im .Jog U 5 Dept -:1 a ,PuA Eur ,
LEAF OF ABUTILON, SHOWING SKELETONIZING OF LEAVES DuE TO LARV, OF
THE ABUTILON MOTH, LEA/.'ING ONLY THlE MAIN RIBS. WASHINGTON, D. C.
Bul 126, Buteau of Entomo ogy, U. S. Dept of Agricultute.
ABUTILON PLANT, SHOWING INCREASED GROWTH AFTER DESTRUCTION OF LARVE_ OF
THE ABUTILON MOTH BY SPRAYING WITH NICOTINE SOLUTION. (ORIGINAL.)
shown in Plate IV, figure b. It will be noticed that there are only
three pairs of prolegs, or prop legs, in addition to the anal pau'ir. This
larva when quite young is pale greenish-yellow, showing very little
characteristic marking. This is not shown in the figure, because the
basis was a photograph, and it could not be filled out on account of
the growth of the material after the first photograph.
It will be noticed at first that the larva when extended at full
length is decidedly slender, more so than any species of Autographa.
The striping is similar to that of A. brassice, and the larva ik inclined
to be translucent throughout the stages. When at rest, the body
may be held perfectly straight, as in the case of geometrids or inch-
worms. This habit, together with the coloration, which is very
similar to that of its food plant, renders the larva decidedly incon-
spicuous; indeed, it furnishes a most excellent example of protectional
Technical descriptions of the different stages follow. That of the
adult is from Hampson (8) and those of the immature stages are
from Riley (5, 6).
d'. Head and thorax orange yellow, irrorated with brown; abdomen brown above.
Forewing fuscous, suffused with purple gray; a large yellow patch irrorated with red
occupying the whole basal half of wing except the inner margin; irregular ante and
post medial red lines meeting at inner margin, the latter produced to an irregular angle
beyond the lower angle of cell, then excurved to its lower angle; a white speck in cell;
a dentate submarginal line, the area beyond it brown; the cilia white at tips. Hind
wing dark fuscous; the cilia white at tips. Underside of forewing with the costal and
outer area pale, speckled with red; hind wing pale, the costal area speckled with red.
9. Bright orange yellow; forewing slightly red speckled and with slight purplish
suffusion below the postmedial line; the cilia white at tips.
(Larva. With three pairs of abdominal prolegs. Grass green, with dorsal and lateral
series of minute white specks; the prolegs reddish. Food-plant Hibiscus.)
Diameter 0.8 mm., circular, flat below; the upper surface varies somewhat in con-
vexity, in some being almost hemispherical, whilst with others it is quite flat, in general
shape and size reminding one of the egg of Alelia xylina [Alabama argillacea]. Color,
pale yellowish green, almost of the same shade as the lower side of the leaves. The
number of ribs which run from the base toward the summit varies in different eggs
from 31 to 38. Of these ribs from 11 to 13 reach to about one-fourth the distance above
the base, 5 to 7 halfway toward the summit, and 16 to 18 to near the summit. The
space between these ribs is divided quite constantly by 12 low transverse ribs, which
at the intersection with the radiating ribs form a small though quite sharp triangular
point, which is especially conspicuous in the empty egg. The spaces between these
ribs form shallow, squarish depressions, which are finely granulate. The summit
is almost smooth, surrounded with three series of small, roundish cells, which become
larger away from the center, and beyond these another series of three rows of larger
cells of different shapes, though more or less squarish.
THE ABUTILO MOTH.
First stage.-Length of the newly hatched larva, 2 mm. Color very pale greemlntl
yellow along the dorsum, white and transparent toward the sides; head pale yellowish,
without any markings; eyes black, tips of mandibles brown. Antaennm .bat,
3-jointed; first joint stout, very short sad somewhat conical; second joint loagwest,
clavate, its tip obliquely truncate externally, bearing at inner Lad outer angles a
stout spine, which is a little longer than the third joint; third joint shorter than nec-
ond, cylindrical, with a small tubercle at tip, resembling a fourth joint, and provided.
at its tip with a fine hair; &t the inner side of the third joint, at base of the apical tw-
bercles, arises a. stout spine which is almost as long as the joint itself. Pilifeoua wets,
pale brownish, each bearing a long and slender pale hair. Legs rather low, whita;
only two pairs of prolegs, situated on abdominal joints 8 and 9.
Second stage.-The first molt takes place seven or eight days after hatching; at this
time the larvae differ from the newly hatched specimens only in the somewhat lagiv
size and slightly darker color.
Third slage.-In from six to seven days the second akin is cast, and with this molt
appears the third pair of abdominal legs on joint 7. They are, however, extremely
small and scarcely noticeable; they are not used in walking. The color now is adarker
green, lighter toward the sides, and with apair of rather indistinct whitiah dorsal stripes.
Head highly polished, pale, faintly greenish, with two pale, dusky oblique stripes,
Cervical shield slightly dusky, with a darker posterior margin. Piliferous warts
black, the hairs colorless. The abdominal legs are marked externally with a broad
Fourth stage.-The third skin is cast six or seven days after the second molt. The
larva is now almost of the color of the leaves, and measures about 14 mm. in length.
The median and somewhat wavy lateral lines are darker than the rest of the body;
the subdorsal stripes and sutures between the joints are white. The prolegs on abdom-
inal joint 7 are now quite distinct, though rather small, and are used in walking.
Fifth stage.-The fourth skin is cast three to five days later, the larva having changed
very little in appearance, except that the dorsal and lateral lines and the piliferous
warts are distinctly dusky.
Sixth stage.-Five or six days later the fifth skin is shed, and the larva does not change
Set enth stage.-The sixth molt takes place about five days after the fifth, and the
whole appearance of the insect, is considerably changed. The color is pale, trasB-
lucent, pea-green. The head is not polished, of the color of the body; the two oblique
dusky stripes are composed of several irregular spots; the labrum is white, antenna
pale greenish, and the eyes black. The median and the two subdorsal lines are com-
posed of numerous irregular spots of a lemon-yellow color, of which those on median
arid the lower dorsal lines have a more or less distinctly dusky shade on either aide;
the lateral line is quite broad and almost white. Piliferous warts pale yellow, sur-
rounded 1y transversely oval, indistinct, dusky rings. The whole body is speckled
with numerous, usually transversely oval, small, lemon-yellow spots, which inclose
from two to three almost colorless, glistening, round dots. Stigmata orange. Legs
pale green; claws and booklets pale brown; venter bluish-green.
Length of full-grown larva about 35 mm. (1| inches).
Larvae at work on an Abutilon leaf are illustrated in Plate V,
Length, 15 mm. Color, blackish-brown; wing-sheaths opaque, the remaining
portion faintly polished. Front of head prolonged into a short, stout, conical pro-
jection; near its base ventrally are two fine and quite long hairs and two similar pairs
Bul. 126, Bureau of Entomology, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture.
THE ABUTILON MOTH (COSMOPHILA EROSA): a, ADULT; b, LARVA, SHOWING ARRANGEMENT OF
LEGS; C, PUPA. ENLARGED. (ORIGINAL.)
Bul. 126, Bureau of Entomology. U S Dept of Agriculture
a, ABUTILON LEAF, SHOWING PENULTIMATE STAGE OF LARVA OF THE
ABUTILON MOTH NEAR MIDDLE; b. PORTION OF PUPA OF THE ABUTI-
LON MOTH AT LEFT ON LEAF, SHOWING PARTIAL CONCEALMENT.
EXPERIMENTS IN CONTROL.
doreally near insertion of antenna. Eyes prominent and considerably polished.
Legs reaching to tip of wing-cases; antennae shorter. Median line of prothorax quite
sharp and carxinate, median line of mesothorax faintly elevated, somewhat polished.
The whole anterior portion of body finely and closely granulated. Metathorax and
the three following abdominal segments, with numerous shallow, circular depressions,
each having a central granule. The circular depressions on abdominal joints 4-8 are
somewhat larger and their margin is slightly elevated; the posterior third of joints
4-6 is of a lighter color than the rest of the body and very closely and quite coarsely
granulated, while the posterior third of abdominal joints 7 and 8 is polished and not
granulated. The last joint is very peculiarly formed; its tip is broad and prolonged
each side into a short, stout, and sharp tooth directed forward, and between these two
is a pair of slender and also bristle-like spines, directed forward and with their tips
curved in the shape of a loop; another pair of similar bristle-like spines, which are
directed forward and inward, are situated, one at each side, on a small projection at the
base ventrally of the stout lateral teeth, and between these is a large projection which
is armed at its edge with two large, stout, claw-like teeth, which stand at right angles
to the body of the pupa. The anal swelling is smooth, circular, and quite prominent;
the remaining portions of the tip are marked with coarse, elevated ridges, both dorsally
The pupa is shown in Plate V, below.
EXPERIMENTS IN CONTROL.
The following formula was used for spraying the infested Abutilon:
Nicotine sulphate, 40 per cent ................................ ounce. .
W hale-oil soap .............................................. pound..
Lukewarm water ........................................... gallons. 5
The whale-oil soap was thoroughly dissolved in 5 gallons of water
and the solution, after the addition of the nicotine sulphate, was thor-
oughly agitated. The plants were sprayed in the morning while some
dew remained on them, and in the form of a fine spray or mist from all
sides as well as from above and below, the idea being, if possible, to
reach every insect on the plants. The weather was calm and clear.
Two days after this treatment about 95 per cent of the larvae were
found dead. Only four or five larvae were observed to be living, and
these, it is believed, came from adjoining unsprayed plants. In a
few days the plants began to take on a new appearance, putting out a
second growth of leaves. Unfortunately, however, three weeks after-
ward another lot of larvae attacked the same plants, although their
numbers were much less than on the occasion of the first attack.
They were, at the time of discovery, full grown and starting in to do
To complete the experiment, destroy the insects, and save the
plants, the same solution was applied again with the result that it
entirely eradicated all of the insects, and the Abutilon plants thrived
thereafter free from insect attack of any kind up to the end of the
Season. (See Pl. III.) It is believed that some of the insects were
in the egg stage when the spraying was made on the first occasion
and that they are not reached when in this condition.
THE ABUTILON MOTH.
An extremely interesting matter in connection with this injurious
occurrence and the application of remedies is that throughout the
season of 1913 to October 13 none of the insects made their appear-
ance on the Department grounds where the spraying work was done,
showing either the absolute thoroughness of the application or, possi-
bly, that the insect never returned to this particular locality.
The following bibliography is by no means complete, but includes
references to the principal literature:
1. HUBXER, JAcoB. Verzeichniss bekannter Schmetterlinge, p. 249, 1816.
2. HUBNER, JscoB. Zutrage zur Sammliang exotiacher Schmetterlinge, zweytes
hundert, p 19, figs. 287, 288, 1823.
3. GUENEE, ACHILLE. Histoire naturelle des insects. Species g6nr6ral des Lepi-
doptLres. Noctu6lites, t. 2, p. 395, 1852.
4. GROTE. A. R. North American Noctuidse in the Zutrage, second and third hun-
dreds. Can. Ent., vol. 12, p. 116, 1880.
Savannah, Ga., and Alabama recorded as localities.
5. RILEYt, C. V. Report of the Entomologist. (In Report of the [U. S.] Commis-
sionerof Agriculture, 1881 and 1882, pp. 167-170, pl. 8, fig. 1, 1882.)
6. RILEY. C. V. Fourth Report of the U. S. Entomolougical Commission, p. 345, pl. 2,
figs. 1-3, 1885.
7. SMITH, J. B. Catalogue . of . Noctuide . in Boreal America, p. 241,
1893 iBul 44. U. S. Nat. Mus.)
Bibliography, description of moth, distrribution.
8. H.AMPSON, G. F. The fauna of British India, vol. 2, pp. 408, 411, 1894.
9. STAUDINGER, Orro, AND REBEL, HANS. Catalog der Lepidopterendes palmarct-
tischen Faunen-Gebietes, 3. Aufl., p. 234, 1901.
10. DvYn., H.G. Notes on cotton moths. Insecutorinscitise menstruus, vol. 1, p.4,
References under Cosmophila eroa Hubn.. food plains1 and distribuLion In brief.
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