hairy green caterpillars on sophora tomentosa
These hairy green caterpillars were on a necklace-pod plant (sophora tomentosa) in Vero Beach, FL which is mid-way up the Atlantic coast of Florida (at the northern limit of the tropical zone). The cats are about 1 1/2 inches long. Since the photo was taken one of them has pupated in a cocoon on the underside of a necklace-pod leaf. Your ID help is really appreciated. I can’t find any references which show necklace-pod as a host plant for any butterflies or moths and haven’t been able to find a match to the caterpillar on the internet.
Keep up the good work and thanks for your help!
Kathleen Scott

Ed. Note: Before we could identify Kathleen’s caterpillars, she wrote back with the following information.

Thank you so much! Unfortunately I didn’t collect the pupa. It is no longer on the plant and I didn’t find any others (of course the cats might have crawled off to pupate in other places). I continued to search the internet and finally got an identification. I’m sorry to be late in telling you. When I went back to your site to let you know there was an odd error message about the site being offline because it had exceeded its allowed number of hits. It slipped my mind to try again later, I apologise. You offer a great assistance to the public and are a wonderful resource.
The caterpillar is a Genista Caterpillar, Uresiphita (=Tholeria) reversalis (Guenee) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). The references I found for it were about Arizona, Texas and the Pacific Northwest. In Texas it feeds on mountain laurel, crape myrtle, honeysuckle & laburnum. Other references said that it’s one of the few predators of Scotch Broom, an invasive exotic (legume family) in the Pacific Northwest. Apparently the caterpillar absorbs alkaloids from its host plants & is then unpalatable to predators. The following site states that the caterpillar is in the web-worm family and destructive to trees in Texas. I was very puzzled that I couldn’t find any data relating to the caterpillar as a pest for necklace pod. The moth must be uncommon to Florida. I don’t know how it would have gotten here but maybe there is Necklace pod is also in the legume family so that may be the connection. Necklace pod seeds contain an alkaloid that’s poisonous so maybe the leaves have some too. There appear to be few natural predators (I think the wolf spider is one) for this caterpillar due to the alkaloid absorption. Thank you for your searching and your thoughtfulness in sending the update. Warmly,
Kathleen Scott

Location: Florida

11 Responses to Genista Caterpillar

  1. Edie says:

    We’ve recently discovered some destroying our necklace pod here in the Florida Keys.

  2. Julianna says:

    I live in St. Petersburg, Florida and I just discovered that one of my necklace pod bushes is completely stripped by an infestation of this caterpillar and the other is completely infested as well and I am sure will be completely stripped soon. My question is will this kill the bushes?

    • bugman says:

      Perennial plants that lose leaves because of a high population of caterpillars should rebound the following year. This is natural and all years do not see the same insect populations. We believe your plants will be fine.

  3. Diane says:

    I also have caterpillars eating all the leaves on my neck lace pods.
    How can I kill them without using toxic poison…..
    Please help

  4. Diane says:

    I also have caterpillars eating all the leaves on my neck lace pods.
    How can I kill them without using toxic poison…..
    Please help

  5. walter says:

    There is a caterpillar-specific insecticide spray that uses bacterial spores you can spray on necklace pods that are infested. The caterpillar eats the spores and the bacteria grow inside it releasing a mild toxin that does the caterpillar in. Safer makes it as caterpillar killer with BT and you can buy this online. You may have to repeat the spray in 7-10 days

  6. Claudia says:

    Thanks for all the help here. I have the cats on my necklace pod in south Broward County, Florida. I didn’t think this plant had any pest issues. This is the first time I’ve noticed these cats, and I’ve had the plant for over 10 years.

  7. Caroline says:

    My necklace pod in Miami Dade County has a big infestation of these caterpillars…never seen them before. I have had the plant for many years and have had the Io caterpillar before but it was not nearly as destructive

  8. Elizabeth says:

    I have 2 rather large necklace pod plants and 1 is he’svily covered with these caterpillars. I’ve never seen them before and not sure I like the looks of what they are doing to my plant! Are the moths considered a good thing or maybe kind of invasive? They seem to destroy all the new growth on their host plants.

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