by J. W. Brown1, G. Robinson2, and J. A. Powell3

Version 1.0


The food plant database consists of approximately 12,000 records. It is currently available as a PDF document, which may be downloaded by clicking on "Food Plant Database" and searched using Adobe Reader. In the future, this data will be fully searchable via this website and records will be linked to the T@RTS catalogue. Literature supporting records in the database is listed under "Food Plant References."


The common name "leafrollers" has been applied to the family Tortricidae owing to the larval habit of shelter-building by folding or rolling leaves of the food plant. However, the larvae of tortricids employ a wide range of feeding strategies, many fairly divergent from the typical leaf-rolling habit (Horak & Brown 1991, Powell et al. 1998). There are gall-makers, root-borers, fruit-borers, seed-predators, flower-feeders, and tip-tiers. Horak and Brown (1991) postulate that detritus or mycelium-feeding by a free-living larva may have been the ancestral condition. Some of the more unusual feeding modes in the family include leaf litter-feeding, feeding as inquilines in cynipid galls, and preying on coccids.

In general, members of the subfamily Tortricinae tend to be polyphagous, while most Olethreutinae have narrower host ranges. Hosts for the subfamily Chlidanotinae are poorly known. Dicotyledons are the most widely used hosts, but there are species groups and genera throughout the family that specialize on gymnosperms, particularly conifers. The use of monocotyledons as host plants is rare. Few large taxonomic groups within Tortricidae exhibit true host specialization, but the following are examples that appear to be fairly well defined: the tribe Phricanthini may be restricted to the primitive plant family Dilleniaceae; the Indo-Australian tribe Epitymbiini may be restricted to feeding in the leaf litter of Myrtaceae; members of the Australian genus Arotrophora are associated primarily with the plant family Proteaceae; members of the genus Bactra appear to specialize on the monocotyledon genera Cyperus, Scirpus, and Typha; and a majority of the members of the worldwide tribe Cochylini are associated with the plant family Asteraceae.

Although tortricids are known primarily as pests of agricultural, forest, and ornamental plants, several tortricids have been used as biological control agents against invasive weeds, and many others have varying potential to inflict major damage on their respective weedy hosts. The literature is replete with records of host plants of Tortricidae, and the purpose of this document is to begin to compile and organize this rich literature into a database that may be useful to those involved in pest management, quarantine, biological control, and other studies that involve larval host utilization.

This database represents the amalgamation of three independent efforts: a database on all Lepidoptera compiled by Gaeden Robinson at The Natural History Museum, London; a database on Tortricidae compiled by John Brown at the USDA Systematic Entomology Laboratory, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.; and database of rearing records compiled by Jerry Powell at the University of California, Berkeley. Whereas the first two are based primarily on published literature, the last is comprised "original data" based on field work conducted by Powell and students over the last four decades. The combined database also includes data from a variety of "card files" of host plants compiled by various workers at museums worldwide, and from rearing data that accompany identified specimens deposited in major collections. The latter still represents a huge untapped source of food plant information. There has been no attempt to verify records published in the literature; hence, it is up to the user of this database to conclude whether or not these are valid. We merely compile and report this information. In a very few instances we have noted possible errors. Plant names and tortricid names have been modified to reflect modern taxonomy of the groups. Tortricid names follow the world catalog of the family (Brown 2005). In many cases, we have included the name(s) to which the tortricid species was referred in the original literature citation. Botanical names of North America plants follow Brako et al. (1995) and Hickman (1993) for the most part; others follow the USDA-ARS GRIN plant taxonomy database (Wiersema 2001).

The database consists of seven fields. (1) Host. Hosts are arranged alphabetically by genus (and species within genera) using the most current available taxonomy. In some instances, we were unable to find current names for plant species or even genera; likewise, in several instances we could not scientific names for some common names. (2) Host Family. The plant family for each recorded host is provided. (3) Feeding Niche. These data have not been captured for most species; we hope to populate this field in the future. (4) Tortricid Species. The species are arranged alphabetically by genus (and species within genera). As mentioned above, taxonomy follows a world checklist of the family currently in development. (5) Tortricid Subfamily. Because most tortricid larvae can be identified at least to subfamily, we have included this category as an aid to identification. (6) References. Literature citations are in abbreviated form; "et al." is use for more than two authors; references are in chronological sequence except for cases where the data are from collections or indices with no year. (7) Geographic Region. We condensed the data into 7 geographic regions: North America (including the Central American and the Caribbean), South America, Europe, Asia, Australia (including New Guinea and New Zealand), Africa, and Pacific Islands. (8) Location. We list more specific information geographic information (e.g., country or state) where relevant or available.

We hope that users of this document will bring to our attention errors in the taxonomy of both the plants and animals, errors in spelling, and especially errors of omission. It is likely that this product only scratches the surface of the huge body of published literature available on the food plants of Tortricidae.


We thank the following for providing input on various drafts of this document: Amy Rossman, USDA, ARS, Beltsville, Maryland; Natalia Vandenberg and David Smith, Systematic Entomology Laboratory, USDA, ARS, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.; and William Miller, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Literature Cited

Brako, L., A. Y. Rossman & D. F. Farr. 1995. Scientific and common names of 7,000 vascular plants in the United States. APS Press, St. Paul, MN.

Hickman, J. C. (ed). 1993. The Jepson manual. Higher plants of California. University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London. 1400 pp.

Horak, M. & R. L. Brown. 1991. Chapter 1. 1.2. Taxonomy and phylogeny, pp. 23-50. In: van der Geest & Evenhuis (eds.), Tortricoid pests, their biology, natural enemies and control. Elsevier Science Publ., Amsterdam.

Powell, J. A., C. Mitter & B. Farrell. 1998. Evolution of larval food preference in Lepidoptera, pp. 403-422. In: Kristensen, N. P. (ed.). Handbook of Zoology, Volume IV Arthropoda: Insects, Part 35 Lepidoptera, Moths and Butterflies. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin.

Wiersema, J. H. 2001. USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN). [Online Database] National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Available: http://www.ars-grin/npgs/tax/.

This resource should be cited as follows:

Brown, J. W., G. Robinson & J. A. Powell. 2008. Food plant database of the leafrollers of the world (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae) (Version 1.0).

1 Systematic Entomology Laboratory - USDA, Smithsonian Institution, P.O. Box 37012, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC 20013, USA
2 Department of Entomology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK
3 Essig Museum of Entomology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA

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