Leafrollers: An Overview -Management and Control

Leafrollers are little caterpillars that grow to be approximately an inch (2.5 cm) long and have black heads and bodies that range in color from green to brown. They feed inside nests built of their host plant’s leaves wrapped together and fastened with silk. Leafrollers rip holes through the tissue of their leaf nests, occasionally adding extra leaves to the nest to defend themselves from predators. Leafroller damage is normally small, although it can be serious in rare years. Defoliation may occur when there are several nests in a plant. Leafrollers in large numbers may also eat on fruits, causing scarring and distortion. Leafrollers attack most woody landscaping plants as well as fruit trees such as pears, apples, peaches, and even coconuts.


Leafroller larvae feed on sensitive, young leaves, causing them to seem ragged; they also roll and tie leaves together with silken threads to construct tight hiding places. All leafroller larvae attack fruit on trees, and immature fruit may fall due to deep feeding grooves made by larvae immediately after the fruit has developed. Larvae of leafrollers eat fruit and vegetation. Foliar damage is usually negligible; the main issue created by leafrollers is that they get inside and taint fruit.

Management and Control

A few leafrollers aren’t a big deal; simply remove the damaged leaves from your plant and drop the caterpillars into a pail of soapy water. Pick carefully among affected plants and those close to verify you’ve caught all of the caterpillars, and return monthly. Leafrollers do not hatch all at once, especially if there are many species present. Sprays for leafrollers are rarely required. They should only be used when there is indications of a harmful leafroller population, such as a significant number of larvae early in the spring or a big number of egg masses.