Southwestern Pine Tip Moth – Rhyacionia neomexicana

Southwestern pine shoot moth (Rhyacionia neomexicane)

Latin Name: Rhyacionia neomexicane

Common Name: Southwestern pine shoot moth


  • Larvae are yellowish with blackheads and are about half an inch long.
  • The larvae are reddish-orange to yellow caterpillars that grow approximately 1/2 inch long when mature and are found under the bark of afflicted branches.
  • Adults are little moths with mottled reddish forewings and light tan hind wings, having a wingspan of approximately 3/4 inch.
  • The anal plate and head capsule are both light brown. New shoots are severely reduced and quickly become yellow, then brown.

Host:  Austrian and mugho. Scots, ponderosa, and bristlecone (foxtail) are the main host.

Territory: Native to the southwestern United States

Damages caused by Southwestern pine shoot moth:

Rhyacionia neomexicana, the southwestern pine tip moth, is mostly responsible for damaging young ponderosa, mugho, and Scotch pines. Other tip moths belonging to the same genus can be found in the state, but they are far less numerous and harmful. Another specie pinyon pitch nodule moth (Petrova arizonensis), causes more noticeable damage to pinyons by producing a big, smooth nodule of the purple-brown pitch.

Description of Sap Suckers:

Sapsuckers are a species of woodpecker found in North America. Sapsucker wells are immediately identifiable. With its chisel-like beak, the bird drills a dozen or more tiny holes in a horizontal line, each less than half an inch apart. Then it returns to suck up the sap that has trickled out again. The bird produces the second row of holes slightly above the first when the flow begins to wane, generally after a few days. A sapsucker at work is identified by a rectangular pattern of nicely spaced holes in tree bark. The yellow-bellied sapsucker is the most common. It lives in Canada’s and Alaska’s frigid evergreen woods. It migrates east of the Rockies and spends the winter in the Southeast United States.

Life history and Habits:

The southwestern pine tip moth gets to spend the winter as a pupa in plaster-like cocoons connected to the base of the stem. Adults emerge early to mid-spring and deposit eggs when new needles sprout (candling stage). Small larvae eat within a needle for the first 14 to 21 days after the eggs hatch. Later feeding occurs inside needle sheaths or buds, hollowing out developing shoots. By mid-summer, the larvae have reached maturity and are ready to pupate. Every year, a new generation is born.