Distribution. This native species is eastern in distribution. It is found widely in the United States east of the Great Plains, though it is infrequent in the southernmost states. Occasionally, plantain looper is found as far west as Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming. Similarly, in Canada it is known from Nova Scotia to Manitoba.
Host Plants. This insect sometime feeds on such vegetables as bean, cabbage, and parsnip, but is more commonly associated with such weeds as burdock, Arctium lappa; common morningglory, Ipomoea purpurea; dandelion, Taraxacum officinale; lambsquarters, Chenopodium album; plantain, Plantago spp.; thistle, Carduus sp. and Cirsium sp.; wild lettuce, Lactuca sp.; and wild sunflower, Helianthus sp. It has also been found feeding on hollyhock.
Natural Enemies. Natural enemies of this insect are unknown.
Life Cycle and Description. Larvae are the overwintering stage, and apparently there are 2-3 generations annually (Knutson, 1944; Chapman and Lienk, 1981). Moths are present in New York from May until November with a reduction in abundance near the end of June, which probably signifies the completion of the first generation (Chapman and Lienk, 1981). A complete life cycle requires about 30-37 days for completion (Khalsa et al, 1979).
Key elements of the biology of this insect can be found in Khalsa et al. (1979), with additional information and keys in Crumb (1956), Eichlin and Cunningham (1978), and Chapman and Lienk (1981). A key to some common vegetable-feeding loopers, including plantain looper, can be found in Appendix A.
This insect feeds on the underside of leaves during the first three instars, causing a skeletonizing effect. Thereafter, larvae eat large, irregular holes in leaves. Khalsa et al. (1979) demonstrated that this insect consumed almost as much as the more damaging soybean looper, Pseudoplusia includens. However, few plantain loopers are usually found attacking crops, so oviposi-tional preference keeps this insect from becoming a serious pest.
Moths of this species are attracted to light traps. They also can be captured in traps baited with phenylacetal-dehyde (Cantelo et al., 1982). This insect normally does not warrant suppression. Foliar insecticides are effective, if needed.
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