Angle shades moth

The caterpillars of angle shades moth can feed on a wide range of wild and cultivated plants. 

Angle shades moth (Phlogophora meticulosa). Credit: RHS/Entomology.

Quick facts

Common name Angle shades
Scientific name Phlogophora meticulosa
Plants affected Many herbaceous and woody ornamental plants
Main symptoms Holes in foliage and flower buds
Most active All year

What is angle shades moth?

The angle shades is one of many species of moth that can be found in gardens. The caterpillars of this species eat the foliage and flower buds of a wide range of plants. The adult is has a colourful wing pattern and shape that resembles a withered autumn leaf. 

Symptoms

The caterpillars of this moth can be found feeding on plants plants at all times of the year but are most common between May and October.  

  • Holes are eaten in the foliage and flowers of a wide range of plants, including unopened flower buds, frequent hosts include chrysanthemums, red valerian and barberry 
  • Young growth at the shoot tips is particularly favoured
  • The caterpillars are up to 45mm long (1¾in) and vary in colour from brownish yellow to bright green
  • They hide during the day, emerging to feed at night

Control

The presence of the caterpillars of this moth only occasionally cause significant damage in gardens and it can usually be tolerated. Caterpillars and associated moths are important as a food source for other garden wildlife and so should be preserved where possible.

Check susceptible plants frequently so action can be taken before a damaging population has developed. When choosing control options you can minimise harm to non-target animals by starting with the methods in the non-pesticide control section. If this is not sufficient to reduce the damage to acceptable levels then you may choose to use pesticides. Within this group the shorter persistence pesticides (that are usually certified for organic growing) are likely to be less damaging to non-target wildlife than those with longer persistence and/or systemic action.

Non-pesticide control

  • Where possible tolerate populations of caterpillars, as butterflies and moths are an important part of the garden ecosystem
  • Encourage predators and other natural enemies in the garden such as birds, wasps, hedgehogs and ground beetles
  • Check plants regularly for the presence of larvae and remove by hand where practical
 

Pesticide control

If numbers of larvae are too high for hand picking, control may be achieved by spraying with pesticides. Spraying at dusk is likely to give the best results. 

  • Organic contact insecticides containing natural pyrethrins (e.g. Bug Clear Gun for Fruit & Veg, Neudorff Bug Free Bug and Larvae Killer). Several applications of these short persistence products may be necessary to give good control
  • More persistent contact insecticides include the synthetic pyrethroids lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Bug Killer), deltamethrin (e.g. Provanto Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer, Provanto Sprayday Greenfly Killer) and cypermethrin (e.g. Py Bug Killer)
  • The systemic neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra) is also available

Follow label instructions when using pesticides. On edible plants make sure the food plant is listed on the label and follow instructions on maximum number applications, spray interval and harvest interval. Plants in flower should not be sprayed due to the danger to bees and other pollinating insects. Inclusion of a pesticide product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by RHS Gardening Advice. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener.

Download

Pesticides for gardeners (pdf document)

Biology

The angle shades moth mainly has two generations a year but caterpillars can be present all year round. Eggs are laid on a wide range of wild and cultivated plants in late May to June and August to October. Larvae of the second generation overwinter and can feed whenever night temperatures are above 5ºC (41ºF). Once fully grown, the larvae pupate in a cocoon just under the soil.

Larval food plants include: common nettle, hop, red valerian, broad-leaved dock, bramble, hazel, birches, oak, barberry and in gardens many other plants. 

It is also a migratory species, capable of flying long distances. In late summer the resident British population is supplemented with many individuals arriving from mainland Europe.


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