by J. W. Brown1, G. Robinson2, and J. A. Powell3
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
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
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
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
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.
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:
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). http://www.tortricid.net/foodplants.asp.
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