What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: caterpillars everywhere!
Location: Guam
November 10, 2013 11:20 pm
Happened to step outside on my front porch and noticed a rather large gathering of these wormy looking fellows hanging around everywhere. Probably over 200 of them all along the driveway. They vary in size, but are all quite small (the largest I found was maybe an inch long?).. Very active, it was hard to take a picture of one since they were all moving pretty quickly. No idea where they came from, or when they even showed up.
Usually bugs come out in droves here when it rains, but it was a pretty dry day when I saw them. Nov 11 @ around 4pm.
Signature: JB

Unknown Caterpillars

Flame Tree Loopers

Hi JB,
The red heads on your caterpillars are very distinctive and it shouldn’t make identification too difficult.  We are preparing your posting and then we will research the species.

Unknown Caterpillars from Guam

Flame Tree Loopers from Guam

Our quick search did not produce any potential matches.  We will try again later and perhaps one of our readers will be able to assist in this matter.

Unknown Caterpillar from Guam

Flame Tree Looper

Thanks for the quick response! I’m excited to see what they are.. they disappeared as quickly as they came.. Don’t know if that is due to the large amount of geckos we have hanging around that enjoyed an all you can eat caterpillar buffet, or for some other reason. Maybe we will see a large explosion of moths or butterflies around our home soon! 🙂

Karl identifies Flame Tree Loopers
Hi Daniel and JB:
They look like Poinciana Loopers or Flame Tree Loopers (Pericyma cruegeri). These are Noctuid moths in the Family Erebidae or Noctuidae, depending on whether you prefer the new or old classification system. Similarly, the subfamily designation is either Erebinae or Catocalinae. The species is native to much of Southeast Asia and Australia but has been introduced to several Pacific islands, including Guam. As the name suggests, the caterpillars feed on Poinciana or flame Tree species, particularly the Yellow Flame Tree (Peltophorum pterocarpum; native to Southeast Asia) and the Royal Poinciana or Flamboyant (Delonix regia; originally from Madagascar). Both are now grown as ornamental trees throughout the tropical regions of the world and the Poinciana Looper is considered a serious pest of these tree species. There are at least two color morphs; one is predominantly green and the other is mostly black and white as in JB’s photos. If you want to learn more about the biology of these moths you can check out two online papers: “Biology of the Poinciana Looper, Pericyma cruegeri (Butler) on Guam” by R. Muniappan (1974); and, “Tree Pests of the Marianas” by Donald Nafus (U.S. Department of Agriculture). Regards.  Karl

Awesome!! So great to learn what these little guys were… not so great that they are an invasive pest! I ended up losing about 6 hours of my day looking at various bugs and caterpillars and now I can be at peace! Thanks so much for the detailed and informative answer. 🙂

 

 

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: guam

3 Responses to Flame Tree Loopers from Guam

  1. Hi folks

    We’re suffering from a serious plague of these poinciana caterpillars in Brisbane just now. They are killing quite a few poincianas. There is a Bacillus thurengiensis strain that kills them, though. We’ve come up with a chemical-free approach to killing them, combining Bt. with horticultural glue!

  2. john Kennedy says:

    I have a flame tree (they call them Flamboyana here in Spain) where the bark had split vertically at some earlier point in time. In the split there are numerous small holes, which resemble an attack by some worm . Could the critter that you describe be responsible and what damage to the tree would it have caused? Should Io attempt any procedure?

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