Biston betularia L Peppered moth

This species is a generally common pest of trees and shrubs, including fruit crops, but is of most significance on herbaceous ornamentals such as chrysanthemum and pot marigold. The larvae can cause noticeable defoliation but damage to trees and shrubs is usually unimportant as the bulk of feeding occurs relatively late in the season.


Larvae occur from July to September or October. At night, they feed ravenously on the foliage; during the daytime, they rest with the body held straight out at an angle of about 45°, mimicking a shoot or broken twig. Fully grown larvae enter the soil to pupate, and adults emerge in the following year, usually in May, June or early July.


Adult 42-55 mm wingspan; body and wings white, peppered with black (Fig. 307); entirely black (ab. carbonaria) and intermediate (ab. insularia) forms also occur; antennae in the male, strongly bipectinated (Fig. 307). Egg 0.7 x 0.5 mm, whitish-green. Larva up to 50 mm long; brown or green, with pinkish markings; spiracles reddish; body stick-like, with a pair of dark purplish prominences on the fifth abdominal segment; head purplish-brown with a distinct central cleft (Fig. 308). Pupa 20-22 mm long; blackish-brown, cremaster spike-like.

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