A well-known pest with a huge appetite? That must be caterpillars! Caterpillars are the larvae of butterflies and moths. They damage the leaves and fruit in many crops causing serious economic losses. Let’s tackle this pest with several biological control solutions.
Which caterpillar species attack your crop?
The most harmful species attacking your crop are:
- The silver gamma moth Autographa gamma;
- The carnation leafroller Cacoecimorpha pronubana;
- The tomato looper Chrysodeixis chalcites;
- The cabbage leafroller Clepsis spectrana;
- The European pepper moth Duponchelia fovealis;
- The tomato fruit moth Helicoverpa armigera;
- The tomato moth Lacanobia oleracea;
- The cabbage moth Mamestra brassicae;
- The beet armyworm Spodoptera exigua;
- The cotton leafworm Spodoptera littoralis.
What damage can caterpillars cause?
- Caterpillars chew on the leaves and sometimes eat as far as the leaf nerves.
- Young caterpillars start eating the underside of the leaves. However, the upper epidermis stays intact.
- Larger caterpillars also damage the flowers, fruit and young shoots.
- Certain species bore into the fruit and stems, which makes them hard to detect and to control.
- They also foul the plant, due to their granular excrements or frass.
How to control caterpillars?
To monitor caterpillars, you can rely on specific pheromones combined with a trap such as the Delta Trap®.
For biological control of caterpillars, you can introduce:
What are the characteristics of caterpillars?
- The eggs are small and round, oval or cylindrical. Some species may be ribbed.
- Caterpillars start feeding themselves immediately after hatching. They grow quickly up to 15 times their original size.
- Adults are green to brown with 3 pairs of true legs under their thorax. They also have 4 pairs of false legs on their abdomen.
- The morphology of caterpillars can differ depending on the species.
- Their wings show clear markings, which is useful to determine the species.
What about the caterpillar’s life cycle?
- Their life cycle depends on the species and can take about 1 month up to 1 year.
- Adult moths and butterflies have 4 development stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult.
- Clusters of up to 100 eggs are usually laid on the leaves.
- As they grow, caterpillars moult several times.
- Full-grown caterpillars pupate inside a cocoon.
- Caterpillars undergo a complete transformation to emerge as winged adults. This is called a metamorphosis.