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American caterpillar

The American caterpillar

Hyphantria cunea, commonly known as the American caterpillar, is a defoliating moth belonging to the Erebidae family, native to the American continent. In Europe it appeared around the 1940s between Hungary and Germany, subsequently spreading to many other European countries. In Italy the first sightings occurred towards the end of the seventies and the beginning of the eighties in the Po valley. The greatest damage encountered by the attacks of this parasite, in Italy, occurred on the deciduous trees of the green areas, along the roads or railways starting from the north to the center, following the main transport routes. The insect like many species has different stages of development from caterpillar to butterfly, and it is the initial stage that creates infestations.


The adults of the Ifantria appear in the form of a butterfly with a color of the wings varying between white and white dotted with black (usually the males). These butterflies have a wingspan of between 2.5 and 4 cm. Ifantria lays eggs with a light green color on the underside of the leaves. The young larvae have a yellowish color with a double row of blackish dots along the body, while the mature larvae are hairy, with a brownish color, with the presence of blackish tubercles along the body and a length that could reach 3.5 cm . From the tubercles, tufts of light hairs usually appear on the sides and dark on the back, while two longitudinal bands appear on the sides of the body with a yellowish color.


This insect is able to infest different plants, both cultivated and ornamental, and according to the larval stage the damage that could be caused is determined, especially during the feeding phase of the larvae, since intense defoliation is caused. Young larvae are able to cause less damage by leaving the leaf veins unaltered, while mature larvae have the ability to eat it entirely. Due to the attack of the American caterpillar, damage could also be found that hit the fruits. Since the damage would generally be caused in the summer it could be devastating for the plant which in this case would suffer a great deal of stress in a period in which excessive heat and a lack of irrigation may occur.

American caterpillar: How to combat American caterpillar infestation


To fight the American caterpillar it is possible to follow different paths, the first method consists in a mechanical fight, with the destruction of the nests in order to lower the weed potential. Usually this method is used where for technical or health reasons it would be impossible to act in any other way. The chemical fight, using larvicides, should take place taking into consideration above all the context in which the plant is located and should affect the larvae especially in the initial phase when they are more sensitive. The biotechnological fight, on the other hand, consists in the use of bacilli that are able to attack the larvae of the American caterpillar. While it is also possible to use insects or birds such as the turtle dove, the cuckoo or the hoopoe, capable of preying on the larvae of Ifantria.

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