NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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Not much has been published on the biology of the redbud leaffolder, Fascista Cercerisella. These small caterpillars apparently feed only on redbud.The ½-inch-long caterpillars are black with white markings and are extremely active when disturbed. They fold edges of leaves together or fasten two leaves together with strands of silk and feed within the shelter thus formed. When leaves are pulled apart, the worms usually go into a frenzy of thrashing about before dropping to the soil. There are two generations each summer. When mature, the leaffolders pupate within the shelter. The second generation of leaffolders overwinters as pupae in the fallen leaves. The adult is a small, black or very dark brown moth with white spots about ¼ inch long that first emerges in late April or early May. They lay their eggs near the veins. The second generation of eggs are laid in a thin web insided the folded shelter. The moths are also extremely active and run, jump and fly readily when disturbed.

Redbud leaffolder moth is very dark brown to black with white spots

Redbud leaffolder moths are small, active, and skittish.

The Redbud leaffolder is a small, slender, black and white, very active caterpillar seen here with the silk that holds the folded leaf over

Redbud leaffolder caterpillars are also skittish and active.

Redbud leaf with edges folded over by the redbud leaffolder

Redbud leaffolder catrerpillars feed within folded leaves.

Host Plant

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Redbud, Cercis canadensis, is the only host for the redbud leaffolder. Infested trees are disfigured by dying leaves distorted by having the margin folded over. Heavily infested leaves drop prematurely.

Redbudtree heavily damaged by redbud leaffolders

Redbud leaffolders are tiny caterpillars that can cause much damage.

A redbud leaf skeletonized by redbud leaffolders

Redbud leaffolders leave even the tiniest veins uneaten.

Residential Recommendation

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Because redbud leaffolders fasten the leaves together tightly, it may be best to use a systemic pesticide such as Orthene should control be necessary. Whatever pesticide is used should be sprayed on thoroughly to try to get in to soak into the shelters where the leaffolders are feeding. Another control strategy would be to apply a systemic insecticide such as imidacloprid to the soil under the tree in late winter. That would give the tree time to translocate the active ingredient up to the forming leaves. Both Orthene and imidacloprid are available in big box stores and garden centers. Imidacloprid is a Bayer product available in several formulations. Look for the active ingredient listed on the front of the package usually in very small font.


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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 3, 2013
Revised: Oct. 11, 2019

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