T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network

Helicoverpa armigera (Tomato fruitworm)

Kingdom:   Animalia
Phylum:     Arthropoda
Class:        Insecta
Order:        Lepidoptera
Family:      Noctuidae
Genus:       Helicoverpa
Species:     H. armigera
Subspecies name: Helicoverpa armigera ssp. conferta
Synonyms: Chloridea armigera, Chloridea obsolete, Helicoverpa commoni, Helicoverpa obsolete, Heliothis armigera nferta, Heliothis armigera, Heliothis conferta, Heliothis fusca, Heliothis pulverosa, Heliothis rama,Heliothis uniformis, Noctua armigera, Noctua Barbara.
Common name: Tomato fruitworm

Helicoverpa armigera is a moth widely distributed in southern Europe, North and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia and the lowland areas of New Zealand. It is a pest of a wide range of host plants including tomato, corn and other crops. The adult is a nocturnal moth of medium size with a wingspan of 28-37 mm and is very variable in intensity and shade of colour. The forewings are pale yellowish-brown. There are several darker reddish-brown lines across the wing, with a dark spot slightly in front of the mid-point. The hind wing is paler, with a broad blackish band extending over the outer half, and the wing has a pale terminal fringe. It can be found feeding at flowers during the day. The female can lay up to 2000 eggs on the host plant.
Fully grown caterpillars are about 30–40 mm long. The colouration is extremely variable ranging from almost black, through red, to pale green. It has four pairs of stout abdominal prolegs. The caterpillars are frequently striped with dark and light longitudinal lines. Along the middle of the back there is often a white stripe, flanked by two broken white lines. The lateral white line has prominent black spiracles (breathing pores) on it.
There may be five, six, or seven larval stages. The caterpillar is omnivorous but feeds predominantly on herbaceous and low shrubby plants. Plants of the families Solanaceae and Leguminosae are favoured hosts. It will eat virtually all parts of the host plant but concentrates principally on the flowers and fruits. They will also feed on the soft parts of the young needles of pine trees, just at the tip of the fascicle sheaths. They pupate underground.

This is a very variable moth as can me seen in the photos at



A caterpillar and its damage to a tomato