Exceptionally high numbers of diamondback moths are arriving in the UK


The adult diamondback moth

This is a special announcement regarding the diamondback moth and covers observations up until the 10th June 2016. Diamondback moths are an important migratory pest of brassicas, causing feeding and cosmetic damage that can lead to severe losses in cruciferous crops. The diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) is a species often described a 'super-pest' because they have been found to be resistant to most insecticides, including pyrethroids and diamide. See the CABI datasheet (http://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/42318) for more information.

The Rothamsted Insect Survey, a National Capability supported by the BBSRC and the Lawes Agricultural Trust, has long-term annual records revealing that the numbers reported so far are exceptionally high. Similarly high numbers were last observed in 1996.

Mr Chris Shortall, research scientist and coordinator of the Rothamsted light-trap network, explained: “I noticed higher numbers than usual in the light-trap samples at Rothamsted and saw online that the moth-observing community was reporting high incidence of diamondback moths.”

"Normally, we gather the data at the end of the year from the volunteers that run light-traps around the country, but on the basis of these reports I contacted them and asked them to provide the data that they have so far. They reported much higher numbers than usual. In our light-traps here at Rothamsted we have seen in two nights the number of diamondback moths that we usually record in a year, and this is reflected elsewhere in the network.”

“I’m concerned for cabbage and cauliflower growers, which is why I wanted to inform the relevant organisations and growers as early as possible.”

“If the summer weather is warm and favourable for the reproduction of the moths we could see an explosion in the number of the moths by the end of the season”, Chris added.

Dr Steve Foster, senior scientist at Rothamsted Research in the department of Biological Chemistry and Crop Protection said: “We will aim to study the moths that are immigrating currently to the UK to identify whether they are resistant to the available insecticides and look for potential management methods. This could take up to a few weeks.”

“Growers should seek advice from their agronomists and authorised advisers as to how to manage the pest in their farms. We will aim to provide all scientific information when the data are available.”


Notes to Editors

Images of the moth are available to use on our Flickr.

Additional information about the observations of diamondback occurrence recorded so far

Diamondback moth was first noted in the Brooms Barn suction-trap on the 30/05/2016 and has since been found in all other suction traps in England, mostly in single figures. Diamondback moth has also been found in large numbers in the Rothamsted light-trap network, with sites in Eastern England and the Channel Islands reporting around 10 times the normal yearly totals over a period of a few nights. Early reports include high numbers from Oxfordshire (173 in one night), Guernsey (310 in one night), Bedfordshire (260 in one night), North Yorkshire (71 in one night), County Durham (61 in one night) and Berkshire (1000+ over 3 nights). Diamondback moth has also been found in large numbers in yellow water trap samples from cabbage fields in Kirton, Lincolnshire and Wellesbourne, Warwickshire.

About BBSRC National Capabilities

A National Capability is a BBSRC-funded resource intended to benefit the scientific community in general. These can be facilities as well as opensource datasets. http://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/our-science/national-capabilities.

About the Rothamsted Insect Survey

The Rothamsted Insect Survey is a BBSRC supported National Capability with additional support from the Lawes Agricultural Trust, the BBRO, AHDB and others.

More information about the Rothamsted Insect Survey can be found here: http://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/insect-survey/

For further information about the Rothamsted Insect Survey, please contact: Dr James Bell

For further information about the light-trap network of the Rothamsted Insect Survey, please contact: Mr Chris Shortall

Questioning the feasibility of the “4 per 1000” goal to sequester carbon in soil and slow climate change

International group of leading scientists suggest goal is unattainable in many situations, but still good for improving soil quality.

Wood pellets enhance ecosystems and raise renewable energy prospects, says international report

Study marks a controversial stand in a lively, ongoing debate about the sustainability of biomass derived from forests.

The BBSRC invest in Rothamsted Research’s science strategy

BBSRC invests £50.9M in support of excellent agricultural science at Rothamsted Research to address grand challenges faced by farmers and society for the sustainability of food production and the environment.

How to deliver an improved UK agriscience sector outside of the EU

Rothamsted Research and the NFU convened a workshop identifying the key areas of focus in order to have a world leading agriscience sector in the UK after Brexit.


Rothamsted Press Office

For further information, please contact:
Professor Angela Karp (comms@rothamsted.ac.uk), Tel: +44 (0) 1582 938 855

About Rothamsted Research

We are the longest running agricultural research station in the world, providing cutting-edge science and innovation for over 170 years. Our mission is to deliver the knowledge and new practices to increase crop productivity and quality and to develop environmentally sustainable solutions for food and energy production.

Our strength lies in the integrated, multidisciplinary approach to research in plant, insect and soil science.
Rothamsted Research is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)


BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, BBSRC invested £473M in world-class bioscience, people and research infrastructure in 2015-16. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes.