Calophasia lunula
Insect: Moth (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)

Mass Rearing By Students - Includes many photos
Photos: Larvae   Pupae    Other Photos
[It is not recommended that this insect be released any more as it is relatively ineffective and may also attack garden snapdragons.]

 Photos above by Bob Richard, USDA-APHIS-PPQ.

Origin:  The original source of this species is Europe, Eurasia. The native distribution of the species is Eurasia.  (1)

Common nameToadflax moth (2)

Life cycle:
The Wintering stage: Calophasia lunula overwinters as a pupa. (1)

The Egg stage:  The eggs are laid on May to August on foliage. The eggs colors are off-white to pale-yellow and darken with time. They are about 1 mm in diameter. The eggs hatch within about 7-11 days. The adult females can lay from 30 to 80 eggs. (2)

The Larval stage: Young larvae are 2-3 mm long and pale gray in color. Older larvae have longitudinal yellow, black, and gray stripes with black and white spots. They may reach a length of 35 mm at maturity. Larvae feed on leaves of Dalmatian and yellow toadflax and are active during the day. There is 5 molt stages (instars) in the larval stage and it lasts about 1 month. By the time of the last instar the larva will be around 3.5-4 cm. (1,2)

The Pupal stage:  This is the insects overwintering stage.  Some moths will emerge the same summer for a second generation.  The pupation occurs in a cocoon that the insect constructs out of leaves and soil debris.  The cocoon is either attached to lower stem of the toadflax or it is in the soil near the plant.  The pupa is golden to reddish brown in color.  (1)

The Adult stage:  The adult stage lasts from 3-12 days to about 3 weeks. The adults are gray moths that feed on the nectar of the toadflax plants and are 11-13 mm long.  (1,2)

Destructive stages:  Calophasia lunula is in its destructive stage when it is a larva.  When it is a larva it feeds on the new shoots, stems, flowers, and if need be old foliage. In some Montana sites up to 40% of the foliage is consumed. (1)

Plant species attacked:  Calophasia lunula attacks Dalmatian toadflax and yellow toadflax.  (1)

Damage to host:  The defoliation becomes greater when the number of  Calophasia lunula increases or becomes more abundant.  The defoliation decreases root reserves and toadflax stems in general the year following the attack.  If the buds and flowers are eaten then the seed production will also decrease.  (1)

First introduced into the United States:  Calophasia lunula was introduced into the U.S. in  1968. (3)

Now established in:  Calophasia lunula is now established in Idaho, Montana, Washington and Canada.  (1)

Habitat:  The habitat  is grasslands, pastures, fields of agriculture, and almost any where that is infested Dalmatian and yellow toadflax.  In Montana it seems to need areas where there is snow cover for much of the winter [i.e. west of the continental divide] to establish well.  (3)

Availability:  [It is not recommended that this insect be released any more as it is relatively ineffective and may also attack garden snapdragons.]  The availability of Calophasia lunula in Idaho and Montana is limited but available.  Yet, in Washington it is very obtainable.  Your County Weed District or private biocontrol companies may have this insect. (1)

Stage to transfer: The stage to transfer the insect is when it is a larva.  (1)

Redistribution:  Larvae are hand collected form already infested toadflax plants and put into cardboard containers.  The containers have stems and leaves for the insects from other toadflax.  The larvae are then placed on uninfested toadflax at new sites to start colonization.  (1)

    Calophasia lunula has been shown to not be able to handle cold dry weather well.  Calophasia lunula should not be released on any toadflax with high ant activity on and around it.  It seems that this insect is mildly successful on some sites especially in western Montana.  [It is not recommended that this insect be released any more as it is relatively ineffective and may also attack garden snapdragons.] 


1.   Rees, Norman, et. al., Ed., Biological Control of Weeds in the West, Western Society of Weed Science, in Cooperation with USDA ARS, MT Dept. of Ag, and MT State Univ., Color Printers, Bozeman, MT, Feb., 1996

2.  Burnett, Tom, Sprig 2000, Biological Control Information (online), Available: , Last updated: 2000

3.  Lang, R.F Biological Control: A Guide to Natural Enemies in North America, (online) available: , Page last modified: Feb. 9, 2000 Text last modified: April 18, 1997

By: Janelle Anderson and Brianne Ward, 02/03.   Updated By: Justin Wehner, 08. 
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