Forest Pest Insects in North America: a Photographic Guide

Southwestern pine tip moth

Rhyacionia neomexicana (Dyar) (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae)

Orientation to pest

The southwestern pine tip moth, Rhyacionia neomexicana (Dyar), is a native North American tip moth that distorts and kills terminals of young ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Douglas ex Lawson) in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, the Dakotas, and Nebraska. Moths fly in spring laying eggs as new needles emerge. Eggs hatch in 2-3 weeks, and small larvae feed inside needles. Later, larvae feed inside needle sheaths or buds and eventually the large larvae hollow out growing shoots. Larval feeding under the bark of new shoots produces girdling wounds that cause shoots to turn brown and become crooked. Mature larvae leave the tips during summer and spin cocoons, usually in the bark crevices on the base of the tree below the litter, where they pupate and overwinter. There is one generation per year. Heavy infestation for consecutive years may retard growth, leaving trees short and bushy. Trees are affected in both plantations and natural forests. Injury is most severe where trees are planted on poor sites.

Hosts commonly attacked

In North America, this moth attacks ponderosa (P. ponderosa), Austrian (Pinus nigra J. F. Arnold), mugho (Pinus mugo Turra), Scots (Pinus sylvestris L.), and foxtail (Pinus balfouriana Balf.) pines.


This moth occurs in the United States in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, the Dakotas, Montana, and Nebraska.

Images of southwestern pine tip moth

Adult of pitch pine tip moth Jim Vargo 768x512
Figure 1. Adult of southwestern pine tip moth, Rhyacionia neomexicana

Important biological control agents related to this pest species

Little to no information is available on the natural enemies of this species.

Web links for information on southwestern pine tip moth