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Digital Guide to Moth Identification

990640n – 19640   Spodoptera littoralis Boisduval, 1833
             African Cotton Leafworm
Distribution Data for Spodoptera littoralis
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Distribution: Old World and Mediterranean Europe; not found in North America north of Mexico.
and Size:
2-7 generations per year, depending on climate.
wingspan 30 to 38 mm
Larva and
Host Plants:
Larvae are highly polyphagous and have been recorded on representatives from Malvaceae (cocoa), Anacardaceae (cashew), Fabaceae (peanut, soybean, green bean, cowpea, pea, alfalfa), Compositae (lettuce and sunflower), Solanaceae (tobacco, bell pepper, chili pepper, tomato, sweet potato, and eggplant), Rubiaceae (coffee), Rutaceae (orange), Cucurbitaceae (squash, pumpkin, honeydew melon, cantaloupe), Myrtaceae, Pinaceae, Brassicaceae (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, rapeseed, canola, radish, and turnips), Euphorbiaceae (castor oil plant, cassava), Amaranthaceae (beet, spinach) and Poaceae (rice and corn).
Field Marks:
Forewings brown to reddish brown. Veins white to cream colored, distinct from ground color, extending to wing fringe. Reniform spot light brown, with white margins and a triangular apex. Orbicular spot in center of wing elongate, oblique. Males with light brown or grey patch mid dorsum, nearly half the length of dorsum. Hindwings nearly uniformly iridescent white, outer margins either dark grey-brown or with a thin dark grey-brown line on apical half of wing margin.
Genitalia: Compare with S. frugiperda
Similar Species:
  • Spodoptera littoralis can be distinguished from native species using genitalic characters:
    Absence of two "windows" on the valva that are present only in S. litura
    Absence of narrow dark stripe dorsally on tegula, present only in S. dolichos
    Absence of "white down-curved line on the middle of the inner margin of the wing, enclosing a light brown areas, usually bordered by black on the inside", present only in S. pulchella
    Males easily distinguished from male S. latifascia based on wing patterning. S. latifascia pattern is less distinct, with large yellowish brown patch on median area, touching inner margin.
    Similar species includes S. ornithogalli, S. pulchella, S. latifascia, S. frugiperda, S. eridania, S. albula, and S. exigua,
  • Pinned specimens of related species. (Hint: select View by Region on the related species page.)
  • (1) Brambila, J. 2009. Steps for dissection of male Spodoptera moths (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) and notes on distinguishing S. litura and S. littoralis from native Spodoptera species. [pdf]
  • (2) Sullivan, M. 2007. CPHST Pest Datasheet for Spodoptera litura. USDA-APHIS-PPQCPHST. Revised April 2014. website
  • (3) Passoa, S. C. 2014. Key to recognizing Spodoptera litura/littoralis intercepted at U.S. ports of entry, 4 pp. In: Gilligan, T. M. and S. C. Passoa. LepIntercept, An identification resource for intercepted Lepidoptera larvae. Identification Technology Program (ITP), USDA/APHIS/PPQ/S&T, Fort Collins, CO. [accessed at] [pdf]
  • (4) Brambila, J. 2013. Identification notes for Spodoptera litura and Spodoptera littoralis (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) and some native Spodoptera moths.[pdf]
  • (5) Species Page at BOLD Barcoding Project - website.
Spodoptera littoralis
– Christi Jaeger, MEM

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