NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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The larger canna leafroller, Calpodes ethlius, is a caterpillar in the family of butterfly-like insects called skippers. These brownish insects are common on flowers during the summer as they dart from flower to flower with a snapping sort of flight. This is also the family of the worm, Aegiale hesperiaris, that is used in tequila to assure the concentration of alcohol is up to standard. The skipper of the larger canna leafroller is called the Brazilian skipper, the canna butterfly, or the arrowroot butterfly. In North Carolina the larger canna leafroller seems to be a relatively minor pest of cannas (as compared to the lesser canna leafroller which may cause major damage to whole beds of cannas season after season). Larger canna leafroller skippers lay tiny, pale, dome-shaped to spherical, bluish green eggs on canna from which hatch tiny, pale caterpillars with black heads. These immediately cut and tie parts of a leaf to form a shelter. They remain within the rolled leaf except to feed. As they feed, molt, and grow, they create new, larger tubes. Larger canna leafrollers are relatively large (up to two inches long), pale green but translucent caterpillars with dark orange heads and short, distinct necks. They fold over a piece of the edge of a leaf and chew large, ragged chunks away from the remaining leaf. Within the folded leaf in a thin, white cocoon they eventually form a slender pupa that is pointed on each end. We have at least two generations per year in North Carolina although it is doubtful that larger canna leafrollers can survive winters north of southern Florida.

Brazilian skipper

The Brazilian skipper is also called the canna butterfly.

Canna butterflies have pale spots

Canna butterflies have pale spots on their wings and hooked antennae.

Canna butterflies sometimes lay their eggs

Canna butterflies sometimes lay their eggs in clusters.

Larger canna leafroller

Larger canna leafrollers are usually page green with a distinct head.

Larger canna leafroller pupa

Larger canna leafroller pupae are slender and pointed on each end.

Host Plants

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Larger canna leafrollers infest all species of canna as well as the related West Indian arrowroot and alligator flag. Cannas with red leaves and red or orange flowers are particularly attractive as host plants for canna butterflies.

Larger canna leafrollers can cause significant damage.

Larger canna leafrollers can cause significant damage.

Residential Recommendations

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Sevin, Bacillus thuringiensis or some other contact insecticide should give adequate control if sprayed into the rolled portions on canna leaves. These leafrollers can also be squashed within their rolls or removed by hand or if one has the stomach for it.


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For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local Cooperative Extension center.

This factsheet has not been peer reviewed.


Professor Emeritus
Entomology & Plant Pathology

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: Dec. 20, 2016
Revised: March 9, 2022

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