Pest of the Month February 2010 – Nettle Caterpillar

  •  Hosts:  Over 45 species of plants in 22 families.  Monocots preferred over dicots.  Common in palms, various grasses, ti leaf, iris, and most lilies including mondo. 
  • Range: Most of east side of BigIsland, Kona district and Kohala district; Oahu (Central Oahu, Waimanalo, Waialua); and Maui (Haiku, Paia, Makawao, Wailuku, and Kihei)
  • Symptoms:  Heavily damaged leaves, fecal pellets on the leaves
  • Spread through: primarily through movement of infested plants.
  • Health concern: stinging spines cause burning and itching of skin; swelling, welts, or blisters can occur followed by a persistent rash that may last for weeks.  Severe symptoms include difficulty breathing.  If severe symptoms or spines in the eyes occur, seek medical help immediately. 
  • Control: biological control identified and released. It has caused a decline in nettle caterpillar populations of 60%-90%.

Source: Nettle Caterpillar, State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture New Pest Advisory No. 01-03, Updated April 2011.

Nettle Caterpillar. Photo by R. Heu, Hawaii Department of Agriculture