Bud-eating caterpillars

Noctuids, boarmies, sphinx, etc.


These pests of the order Lepidoptera, as their name suggests, attack more particularly the buds and young leaves (figure 1), at the caterpillar stage. These belong to different families: 

Geometridae (looper caterpillars)

  • Peribatodes rhomboidaria (Denis & Schiffermüller 1775) diamond-shaped or (syn. boarmie moth Boarmia gemmaria ) (figure 2). The caterpillar has only 2 pairs of prolegs, hence its characteristic displacement. Standing on the anal legs, she mimics a twig. It is at this stage of development that the insect overwinters. It is very active in spring during bud break.


Erebidae (gruff caterpillars)

The caterpillars of this family, also called hedgehog caterpillars, are very hairy. Butterflies, often hidden in vegetation, have very colorful hind wings. These insects have an organ that produces ultrasound. The damage caused by these species is seldom significant.

  • Arctia villica (Linnaeus, 1758), farm scale
  • Arctia caja (Linnaeus, 1758) sable scale
  • Rhyparia purpurata (Linnaeus, 1758), purple scale
  • Spilosoma lubricipeda (Linnaeus, 1758), the tiger scale or slippery foot scale (Figures 3 and 4).

Noctuidae (gray caterpillars, hairless)

These butterflies, especially active at night, have folded wings in the shape of a cap, the front ones often darker than the rear ones which can be very colorful (figure 5). The caterpillars more or less gray depending on the stage and the species roll up as soon as they are disturbed. These caterpillars are nocturnal and remain hidden in the ground during the day (Figure 6). We only notice their presence by the devastation caused to young shoots, the greatest damage being observed in April-May. The species encountered are different depending on the climate.

  • southern vineyards:
    • Agrotis segetum (Denis and Schiffermuller 1775), the harvest moth
    • A. exclamationis (Linnaeus 1758) nicknamed exclamation point or double spot
    • Noctua pronuba (Linnaeus 1758), the nocturnal fiancée or owl (figure 7)
  • northern vineyards:
    • Agrotls bigramma (Linnaeus, 1790) Noctuelles trapue (anc. Agrotls gross )
    • Euxoa (Euxoa) nigricans (Linnaeus, 1761), the blackish moth
    • E. tritici (Linnaeus, 1760) known as encrypted moth or wheat moth
    • Xestia c-nigrum (1758), the 100-noir. 


These beautiful, hovering, undeveloped winged, huge-bodied butterflies are occasional pests of the vine. The damage caused by large and thick caterpillars is always limited. In fact these species are not subservient to the vine and their normal habitat consists mainly of wild plants such as bedstraws or fireweed, but also buckwheat. The caterpillar in this family carries a spur on the penultimate segment of the abdomen.

  • Deilephila elpenor (Linnaeus, 1758) (formerly Pergena elpenor ) large vine sphinx or pink sphinx; this species mainly attacks espalier vines, because the presence of walls favors its multiplication by sheltering the chysalids. Tillage destroys these.
  • D. porcellus (Linnaeus, 1758), small vine hornworm or small swine. Generalized invasions are rare.
  • Hyles lineata (Fabricius, 1775) (formerly Celerio lineata var livornica ), common vine hornworm or banded hornworm. This species, the most harmful, is migratory and can sometimes appear in massive invasion in the South of France.


  • Theresimima ampellophaga (Bayle-Barelle, 1808), grapevine zygène or grapevine procris (anc. Zygaena ampellophaga, photo 8) has been known since antiquity as a pest of the vineyard, but which is of particular concern in the center of the 'Europe. In France its presence is limited to Provence and the damage is not serious. The small caterpillars eat the young buds in the spring and then the growing leaves, attacking the middle of the leaf blade.


Biological regulation

The factors favorable to the presence of these pests are presented to you in the attached table (figure 9). In addition, among the useful auxiliaries one can quote predators such as ground beetles (photo 10, beetles feeding on caterpillars on the ground), passerines and bats which consume caterpillars or butterflies, lacewings and hemerobes which attack more particularly the eggs. and small caterpillars. The parasitic wasps and flies tachinid will grow at the expense of eggs and caterpillars (photo).


Galet P (1982) Diseases and parasites of the vine. Volume II, animal parasites.

Classification : Animalia, Arthropoda, Insecta, Lepidoptera
Synonyms :
English name :

Last change : 05/03/21
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