Tuta absoluta (tomato leafminer) belongs to the very large insect family Gelechiidae and is native to South America. Tuta is a micro moth and develops through an egg, four larval stages and a pupa stage.
The tiny larvae burrow through the leaves of tomato, aubergine and other plant species of the nightshade family (Solanaceae). The larvae also infect the stems and fruits of tomato. The leaves acquire the characteristic leaf blotches and contaminated tomato plants look they’ve become infected with worms. Young larvae are about 0.5 mm long and yellowish in colour. Later they become yellow green, acquire a black edge behind their head and pink glow on the back. The larvae develop to become about 9mm long. The moth (6-7 mm) is difficult to distinguish from other moths due to its nondescript grey brown colour. Also they are only active at night and hide during the day.
Tuta is not only a large threat to the cultivation of tomatoes but also to the export of tomatoes. In the case of aubergines only production is affected.
Text: Royal Brinkman. Image: Tomás Cabello Garcia (University Almería).