NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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The lesser canna leafroller, Geshna cannalis, is a small caterpillar related to the European corn borer, pickleworm, coneworms, sod webworms and others. The lesser canna leafroller overwinters as slender caterpillars in the leaves and stems of canna. After pupating, new moths emerge to mate and lay eggs after new growth emerges in spring. When the tiny, new caterpillars hatch, they feed within the new, still rolled up leaves. Older caterpillars can actually tie the edges of older leaves together and roll the leaf back up! The lesser canna leafroller is evidently not cannibalistic as several caterpillars can be found feeding or overwintering inside one rolled leaf.

Cannas damaged by lesser canna leafrollers

Lesser canna leafrollers skeletonize canna leaves rather than chewing holes.

Canna leaf rolled and damaged by the lesser canna leafroller

Lesser canna leafrollers can tie up canna leaves to form a shelter.

Lesser canna leafroller

Lesser canna leafrollers are small, green caterpillars.

The pupa of the lesser canna leafroller exposed when a damaged leaf of a purple canna was unrolled

Lesser canna leafrollers pupate inside the rolled up, damages leaves.

Lesser canna leafroller moth

Lesser canna leafroller moths typically rest upside down.

Host Plants

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Cannas, wild and cultivated, seem to be the only host plant of the lesser canna leafroller. Theser caterpillars only feed on the upper epidermis and mesophyl primarily inside rolled up leaves. If not managed, lesser canna leafrollers may completely destroy the aesthetic value of cannas.

Residential Recommendation

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One mistake canna growers make is to leave the old dead growth on the canna bed as a sort of mulch. Canna seems to be the only host plant for this pest, so that if the plants are somewhat remote from other cannas, it may be possible to drastically reduce the lesser canna leafrollers just by carefully removing and destroying all dead leaves and stems in the fall after the frost has killed it back. It is possible to eradicate this pest by using Orthene as a spray several times perhaps at ten day intervals. The Bacillus thuringiensis insecticides are also effective for this pest. Spray the dilute pesticide mixture directly downward into the rolled leaves so that the pesticide can soak into the shelter around the worms. Also pick up and destroy all of the dead tops from the cannas this winter after frost.


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For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension Center.

This Factsheet has not been peer reviewed.


Professor Emeritus
Entomology and Plant Pathology

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Publication date: July 1, 2013
Revised: Oct. 1, 2019

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