Eucalyptus cossid moth / Coryphodema trisitis

Eucalyptus cossid moth / Coryphodema trisitis
Coryphodema trisitis

Coryphodema capensis Felder, Coryphodema punctulate Walker, Phalaena (Noctua) tristis Drury, Brachionycha punctulata Walker, Cossus seineri Grünberg, Cossus streineri Dalla Torre

Wood boring

Trunk and branches of infested trees turn black, and there is considerable resin and sawdust that originates from infection. A pile of sawdust can be found at the base of infested trees. When a cross-section is made at an infection site on a branch or the main trunk, extensive tunnelling of larvae in the sapwood and heartwood is observed. Pupal casings protrude from emergence holes or can be found on the forest floor. And round holes can be observed after adult emergence (Gebeyehu et al. 2005).

The eggs are approx. 1mm long, oval in shape and dull cream coloured. Larvae are approx. 30-40mm long when fully grown. Fully grown larvae have a brown head and the body is light yellowish in colour with reddish blotches. Three short pairs of legs are present behind the head. Larvae pupate in woven silk and sawdust cocoons. Pupae are about 25-35mm long, with rows of spines present on the abdomen and the head terminating in a spine. The adult is rarely seen in the field. It is short lived (about one week) with a wingspan of 25-50mm. Body is greyish brown, front wings are mottled brown and hind wings are mottled light grey (Gebeyehu et al. 2005)


Adult female cossid moths lay eggs on the bark of trees, usually in a sheltered place such as cracks in the bark. Upon emergence, larvae bore through bark and feed on the cambium. As the larvae grow, they bore into the wood, where they cause extensive tunneling. Pupation occurs in pupal cocoons constructed inside the larval tunnels. Just prior to adult emergence, the pupae cut themselves out of the cocoons and wriggle towards the tunnel openings until their bodies project halfway out the tree. In this position, the adults emerge from the pupal cases, resulting in the shed pupal cases protruding half way out the tree or falling to the ground. The cossid moth has a two-year life cycle with adult emergence in September to December.

Larvae feeding in the cambium and the extensive tunneling in the sapwood and heartwood results in severe damage to trees and makes them prone to wind fall. Tree mortality in stands can exceed 80 %. Both the main trunks and branches are attacked. Trees from five to fourteen years old have been infested, but it is likely that the cossid will infest both younger and older trees, provided the diameters of the trunks/branches are sufficient to enable the larvae to feed. 


Selection of resistant planting material (as E. nitens is the only Eucalyptus species attacked and Pinus and A. mearnsii are not hosts). In addition, a pheromone-baited trap has been developed for monitoring populations of C. tristis, and this trap has also been used in a mass-trapping management strategy (Bouwer et al. 2017).

KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Western Cape
Eucalyptus nitens is the only plantation tree species currently affected, but C. tristis has been reported to infest various other native and non-native trees
native in South Africa


Frass and sawdust from larval tunneling
Eggs laid on bark
Larvae boring in wood
Adult moth
Adult male (left) and female (right)

Gebeyehu S, Hurley BP, Wingfield MJ. 2005. A new lepidopteran insect pest discovered on commercially grown Eucalyptus nitens in South Africa. South African Journal of Science 101:26-28.

Bouwer MC, Slippers B, Wingfield MJ, Allison JD, Rohwer ER. 2017. Optimization of Pheromone Traps for Coryphodema tristis (Lepidoptera: Cossidae) . Journal of Economic Entomology 110:1603-1610.