Metzneria paucipunctella

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Spotted knapweed seed head moth
Metzneria paucipunctella 0021045.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Gelechiidae
Genus: Metzneria
Species: M. paucipunctella
Binomial name
Metzneria paucipunctella
(Zeller, 1839)
  • Gelechia (Metzneria) paucipunctella Zeller, 1839
  • Metzneria luqueti Nel, 1995
  • Metzneria zimmermanni Hering, 1941
  • Metzneria confusalis Lucas, 1956

Metzneria paucipunctella is a species of moth known as the spotted knapweed seed head moth. It is used as an agent of biological pest control against noxious knapweeds, particularly spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa).

Metzneria paucipunctella 0886052.jpg

The adult moth is narrow-bodied and about 8 millimeters long. It is brownish-gray and lightly speckled. It has large recurved antennae. The female lays about 80 eggs, depositing each at the base of a flower head. In about ten days the larva emerges and burrows into the flower head where it feeds on the developing seeds and florets. The larva is a small, plump white grub with a dark head and visible body segments. It overwinters inside the seed head and pupates the following spring.

This moth is native to Europe. It was first introduced as a biocontrol agent for knapweeds in the United States in 1980, and it is now established in much of the western United States. The larvae of this moth compete with other head-dwelling biocontrol agents; if they find the larvae of another species they attack and consume them. Nevertheless, knapweed control is better when the moth works in tandem with other insects.


  • Coombs, E. M., et al., Eds. (2004). Biological Control of Invasive Plants in the United States. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 218.

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