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Introduction to Cocoa Pod Borer

Introduction to Cocoa Pod Borer

Common Name: Cocoa pod borer (CPB)

Other Common Names: cacao moth; Javanese cocoa moth; rambutan borer; polilla javanesa del cacao,teigne javanaise du cacaoyer

Preferred Scientific Name: Conopomorpha cramerella

Other Scientific names: Acrocercops cramerella Snellen, Gracillaria cramerella Snellen, Zarathra cramerella Snellen


The adult CPB is a small brown moth, 7 mm in length. It has a wingspan of about 12 mm characterised by bright yellow patches at the tips of the forewings. The moths have very long antennae which are swept backwards in their natural resting position. Moths in flight have an appearance similar to that of large, slow-flying mosquitoes.

During the day, adult moths rest on the underside of branches, becoming active at night


Cocoa, Pacific lychee/Fijian longan (Pometia pinnata), rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum), and cola (Cola acuminata).


The cocoa pod borer is extremely widespread, known to occur in Saudi Arabia, China, India, Thailand, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Vanuatu.

However, the presence of Conopomorpha cramerella in Samoa and the Solomon Islands, which looks identical to the one in Papua New Guinea, but causes only skin mining of pods, suggests that different biotypes exist.

The situation is not fully understood, and the view of some that Conopomorpha has been present in Papua New Guinea for some time and that previously it was not a pest of cocoa, adds to the complexity.

Life Cycle

Starting the life cycle, the adult moth lays its eggs on the surface of a pod.

Three days later the eggs hatch, the larvae burrow through the husk, into the pulp around the beans, and into the placenta that holds the beans together

14-18 days after hatching the larvae exit the pod through holes they make in the husk wall. The larvae then crawl to a pod or lower themselves on a silken thread to dried leaves on the ground, spin an oval brown cocoon and pupate.

After 6-8 days, the adult moth emerges. The life of the adult moth is between 27-33 days.

2-6 weeks after initial infestation, the first signs of yellowing will appear on the surface of the cacao pods.


The larvae or caterpillars do the damage by boring into the young, green pods and feeding on the tissues that surround the beans. Pods ripen early, and the beans are small, flat and often stuck together and dried out, leading to inferior quality cocoa beans. Sometimes the larvae eat the seed coat of the cotyledons (the first leaves germinating from the seed).

Many people consider the pod borer to be the most devastating pest for the cocoa industry. With limited control, crop losses can be as high as 90%. As an example of its impact, between 2008 and 2012, production in the East New Britain Province of Papua New Guinea, fell by 80% (from 25,000 tonnes to 4,000 tonnes), with many farmers abandoning the crop.

The economic consequences of its introduction are serious, and managing the pest requires growers to change to high labour input system of production, which include heavy pruning, shade control, frequent harvesting and the destruction of infected pods.

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