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Olethreutes ferriferana

Hydrangea leaftier tied together leaves (caterpillar inside). Photo: Tawny Simisky
Scientific Name: 
Olethreutes ferriferana
Common Name: 
Hydrangea Leaftier
Growing Degree Days (GDD's): 
None available at this time.
Host Plant(s) Common Name (Scientific Name): 
Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp.)
Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)
Smooth hydrangea, cultivar (Hydrangea arborescens 'Hayes Starburst') (Simisky, Personal Observation)
Insect Description: 

The hydrangea leaftier is a moth in the Family Tortricidae whose caterpillars use silk applied to the edges of two newly expanding hydrangea leaves to tie them together to create an envelope-like structure within which they feed. These leaf-envelopes tend to occur near the tips of plant stems and can be very obvious. As a result, the two tied leaves may not fully expand when compared to healthy, non-impacted leaves.

Caterpillars are green and partially transparent with a black head capsule and a black thoracic shield which is found on the top of the body segment located directly behind the head. Caterpillars reach approximately 1/2 inch in length. The timing and location of parts of this insects' life cycle may not be entirely understood. Pupation is thought to occur in the ground nearby host plants, so the insect drops to the ground to pupate where it overwinters. Pupation occurs sometime in June. Adults are found in the spring and are small white and brown moths; the white patterns somewhat resemble bird droppings, aiding in camouflage from bird predation. However, this timing and the location of pupation may vary depending upon geographic location. For example, in Ohio, pupal skins have been observed hanging out of the leaf structures by mid-to-early June. This indicates that pupation may occur within the leaf purse, and prior to the winter. Eggs are laid on branch tips of hydrangea. Only one generation is known per year. This insect, although creating visible and interesting damage to hydrangea, is not usually considered to be a serious pest – although occasional localized problematic populations have been reported.

Damage to Host: 

Caterpillars web together emerging hydrangea foliage to create an envelope-like structure that is also sometimes referred to as a "purse". Caterpillars feed on the flower buds within and surrounding leaves. The amount of damage this insect causes to the host plant is relatively minor, however the cupped and tied leaves are an aesthetic issue for some. Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) and its cultivars may be preferentially impacted by this insect when compared with other species of hydrangea.


Monitor for cupped and tied together leaves with silk in the spring. These structures tend to be created on the tips of plant stems. Open the tied together leaves to view the tiny, greenish caterpillars with black heads within, as well as their dark green frass pellets. Tied together leaves may become dark green, fail to fully expand, and resemble a gall. 

Cultural Management: 

By gently pulling apart the tied-together leaves, tiny caterpillars are revealed within and able to be mechanically managed by crushing them individually. Removing leaf-envelopes in the early spring or pinching them to kill the caterpillar within can help reduce populations on individual plants.

Natural Enemies & Biological Control: 

At this time, not much information is available regarding natural enemies of this insect. Spiders have been noted to move into the leaf structures once caterpillars are finished feeding. The structure houses the spiders, who are beneficial insect relatives (predators) in the landscape. However, it is not thought that the spiders prey upon the caterpillars themselves.

Chemical Management: 

Not necessary for this insect. See mechanical management options above.


Note that the leaf structure created by the caterpillars will protect them from contact insecticides.

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: .