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Rhyacionia frustrana

Nantucket pine tip moth damage (right) compared to healthy branch (left). Photo: Robert L. Anderson, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.
Scientific Name: 
Rhyacionia frustrana
Common Name: 
Nantucket Pine Tip Moth
Growing Degree Days (GDD's): 
121–448 GDD's; 1514-1917 GDD's; 1490-1750 GDD's (adults), Base 50F, March 1st Start Date (Source: Cornell Cooperative Extension; Robert Childs, UMass Extension.)
Host Plant(s) Common Name (Scientific Name): 
Austrian pine (Pinus nigra)
Black pine (Pinus thunbergii)
Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda)
Mugo pine (Pinus mugo)
Pitch pine (Pinus rigida) *Preferred host.
Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) *Preferred host.
Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana) *Preferred host.
Insect Description: 

The Nantucket pine tip moth is found in Massachusetts and south to Florida and elsewhere in the US. Adult Nantucket pine tip moths are approximately 1/4 inch long and copper colored with silver flecking. Adult females lay tiny, convex eggs that may range in color from white to yellow/orange to green as they mature. Eggs hatch and cream colored caterpillars are approximately 3/8 inch long with brown heads. As caterpillars age, they may turn light brown to orange. Once fully mature, the caterpillars form brown pupae that are approximately 1/4 inch in length. The Nantucket pine tip moth may overwinter as a pupae in damaged pine shoots, cones, or buds. Adult moths emerge in the early spring, mate, and the adult females lay their eggs on either new pine shoots or one year old shoots. In the spring, eggs may take up to 30 days to hatch. Once the caterpillars emerge, they spend time feeding on the outside of new growth. After this period of feeding, they bore into the new shoots, cones, or buds to feed within these plant parts. They spend at least 3-4 weeks feeding in these areas. Two generations per year may occur in the northern parts of this insect's range. In Florida, up to five generations may occur per year. May be compared or confused with the European pine shoot moth (Rhyacionia buoliana), the Zimmerman pine moth (Dioryctria zimmermani), or the pitch pine tip moth (Rhyacionia rigidana). 

Damage to Host: 

The Nantucket pine tip moth is capable of killing the shoots of its host plants as far back as almost 1 foot. Both shoots and buds are killed, along with female flowers and conelets. Early feeding may only be indicated by small, delicate webs found on needles near the stem. As feeding continues and becomes more visible, the webbing may grow larger and be filled with resin and frass. On cones, evidence of boring and dead conelets may be seen. Trees growing in sunny locations may be preferentially attacked. Trees that are heavily infested may look reddish-brown in color because of the dieback this insect causes. The caterpillars of this species may kill the tips of small host plants to such an extent that small trees (less than 3 ft. tall) are killed. In other cases, a bushier form to the host plant is created by the feeding of this insect, which may be aesthetically pleasing to some. This species can be significantly damaging in nurseries or Christmas tree plantations. The unsightly distortion caused by the Nantucket pine tip moth can make some of its hosts unmarketable. Ornamental pines or wild pine seedlings growing in open areas may be preferentially attacked.


Pheromone traps may be available to assist planning the timing of chemical management options. Commercially available lures are able to monitor the presence of adult male Nantucket pine tip moths. Visual monitoring of susceptible hosts includes looking for: red/browning needles that eventually drop from the tree, dead/dying branch tips, fine silk webbing filled with resin and frass on branch tips, and hollow shoots or buds.

Cultural Management: 

Planting pine only on sites to which they are well adapted can help reduce the potential impact of the Nantucket pine tip moth. Avoid additional host plant stressors, both biotic and abiotic. Favor resistant species of pine for new plantings, or only plant susceptible species with close spacing or under an overstory. Longleaf, eastern white pine, and slash pine are all considered more resistant to the Nantucket pine tip moth, but may have other pest pressure or may not be suitable for use in New England. Weeds growing nearby may help promote the presence of natural enemies. Prune out and destroy infested shoots or cones.

Natural Enemies & Biological Control: 

Larval parasitoids of the Nantucket pine tip moth may be the most important in reducing damaging populations of this insect. Some examples include, but are not limited to: Campoplex frustranae (Ichneumonidae), Lixophaga mediocris (Tachinidae), and Eurytoma pini (Eurytomidae) (Van Driesche et al., 1996). 

Schaffner (1959) also reports dipteran and hymenopteran parasitoids of the Nantucket pine tip moth collected in New England. These include: Lixophaga mediocris, Agathis pini, Bracon gemmaecola, Calliephialtes comstockii, Copidosoma geniculatum, Cremastus epagoges, Eupelmus cyaniceps amicus, Eurytoma tylodermatis, Glypta varipes, Goniozus spp., Haltichella rhyacioniae, Hyssopsus thymus, Itoplectis conquisitor, Microgaster epagoges, Scambus spp., Tetrastichus marylandensis, and Tetrastichus varicornis. More than 30 species of parasitoids as well as predatory insects and birds will feed on Nantucket pine tip moth (Yates et al., 1981).

Chemical Management: 

Acephate (NL)

Carbaryl (L)

Chlorpyrifos (larvae) (N)

Chromobacterium subtsugae (NL)

Cyfluthrin (NL)

Gamma-cyhalothrin (L)

Imidacloprid (larvae) (L)

Lambda-cyhalothrin (L)

Permethrin (L)

Spinosad (NL)

Tebufenozide (NL)


Active ingredients that may be applied systemically include: acephate (injection) and imidacloprid (soil drench).

When used in a nursery setting, chlorpyrifos is for quarantine use only.

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: .