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Argyrotaenia pinatubana

Pine tube moth damage. Photo: Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, Bugwood.
Scientific Name: 
Argyrotaenia pinatubana
Common Name: 
Pine Tube Moth
Growing Degree Days (GDD's): 
91-246 GDD's; 1151-1514 GDD's; 91-2146 GDD's, Base 50F, March 1st Start Date (Source: Cornell Cooperative Extension and Robert Childs, UMass Extension.)
Host Plant(s) Common Name (Scientific Name): 
Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)
Insect Description: 

The pine tube moth is a native insect that is found throughout the range of eastern white pine. The life cycle and biology of this insect is not well understood by science. It overwinters as a pupa in a tube that in constructs. The tubes are made from 5-20 eastern white pine needles webbed together to create a tube. Caterpillars build this as a shelter for themselves. Inside the tube, the caterpillars surround themselves with silken webbing. The caterpillars have yellowish-green bodies with orange/yellow-brown head capsules. The head may also have brown markings. Adult moths are small and emerge approximately by early May and females lay their eggs on host plant needles. Eastern white pine is the primary host for this species, and it is not fully understood if it may also be the only host. Young caterpillars feed on the tips of the host plant needles. Caterpillars are fully grown by approximately mid-June and may reach up to 0.6 inches long. A new generation of adults emerges in July, with more eggs laid on white pine needles shortly thereafter. Presumably, this generation of eggs hatches, caterpillars feed and form new tubes, within which they pupate and overwinter. A related and similar species, A. tabulana, the jack pine tube moth, may be found on similar hosts - Jack, pitch, and possibly other hard pines (Maier et al., 2004). 

Damage to Host: 

Eastern white pine may be the only host for this insect, however the full host range may also not be fully understood. Larvae (caterpillars) web several needles (5-20) together and feed inside of the tube they create. Usually not a serious pest, the pine tube moth may go unnoticed. However, if the population is abundant, host plant needles may turn brown as a result of feeding and several webbed together tubes may be located. Injury to white pine may go unnoticed until the second generation of caterpillars appear in September/October (southern New England). Management of the pine tube moth is rarely, if ever, necessary. This genus of caterpillars eats the end of the tube they create, and as such this type of damage can be used to distinguish them from other tube-making caterpillars on pines.


Monitor for tube-making caterpillars in May and June. Again in September/October (Maier et al., 2004). This insect rarely causes any damage to the overall health of its host plant, and can generally be encouraged/left in the landscape. This native caterpillar will contribute to the biodiversity of the local ecosystem.

Cultural Management: 

On small trees, if deemed necessary, the caterpillars or pupae can be mechanically managed within their tubes by pinching them and crushing the insects within. However, any kind of management is likely unnecessary for this insect.

Natural Enemies & Biological Control: 

Presumably natural enemies such as predators, parasitoids, and possibly pathogens are responsible for keeping pine tube moth populations low. However, the details of the natural enemies specific to this species are not fully understood. A single specimen collected in Massachusetts is reported by Schaffner (1959) belonging to the genus Zaleptopygus spp.

Chemical Management: 

Abamectin (NL)

Acephate (NL)

Acetamiprid (L)

Beauveria bassiana (NL)

Bifenthrin (NL)

Chlorantraniliprole (NL)

Chlorpyrifos (larvae) (N)

Cyantraniliprole (NL)

Flonicamid+cyclaniliprole (N)

Horticultural oil (L)

Indoxacarb (L)

Insecticidal soap (NL)

Isaria (paecilomyces) fumosoroseus (NL)

Malathion (L)

Neem oil (NL)

Pyrethrin+sulfur (NL)

Spinetoram+sulfoxaflor (N)

Spinosad (NL)

Tebufenozide (NL)


Chemical management of this insect is rarely, if ever, necessary. This native moth species rarely reaches population outbreak levels, and damage to the host plant is minor if at all noticeable. 

Active ingredients that may be applied systemically include: Abamectin (injection), acephate (injection), acetamiprid (injection), chlorantraniliprole (soil drench), cyantraniliprole (soil drench, soil injection), and neem oil (soil drench).

Make insecticide applications after bloom to protect pollinators. Applications at times of the day and temperatures when pollinators are less likely to be active can also reduce the risk of impacting their populations.

Note: Beginning July 1, 2022, neonicotinoid insecticides are classified as state restricted use for use on tree and shrub insect pests in Massachusetts. For more information, visit the MA Department of Agricultural Resources Pesticide Program.

Read and follow all label instructions for safety and proper use. If this guide contradicts language on the label, follow the most up-to-date instructions on the product label. Always confirm that the site you wish to treat and the pest you wish to manage are on the label before using any pesticide. Read the full disclaimer. Active ingredients labeled "L" indicate some products containing the active ingredient are labeled for landscape uses on trees or shrubs. Active ingredients labeled "N" indicate some products containing the active ingredient are labeled for use in nurseries. Always confirm allowable uses on product labels. This active ingredient list is based on what was registered for use in Massachusetts at the time of publication. This information changes rapidly and may not be up to date. If you are viewing this information from another state, check with your local Extension Service and State Pesticide Program for local uses and regulations. Active ingredient lists were last updated: January 2024. To check current product registrations in Massachusetts, please visit: .