- Widespread distribution. Tropics of Asia, Oceania. On cabbages, tomato, okra, chilli, cassava, maize, sweetpotato, rice, eggplant, watercress, and more. An important pest.
- Egg masses on either side of the leaves. Young caterpillars strip the leaf surface; older ones eat the leaves including the leaf stalks. Mostly feeding at night.
- The moth is a strong flyer.
- Cultural control: check for egg masses regularly, and destroy them by hand; allow chicken in the field.
- Natural enemies: predators and parasitoid wasps. Effective unless disturbed by cyclones or droughts.
- Chemical control: PDPs - neem, derris, pyrethrum or chilli; spinosad or Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) on young caterpillars. Alternatively, use synthetic pyrethroids, but they are likely to kill natural enemies.
Pacific Pests, Pathogens, Weeds & Pesticides
Taro cluster caterpillar (031)
Photo 2. As the caterpillars of Spodoptera litura enlarge they eat deeper into the taro leaf; in this photo they have eaten the top surface of the leaf.
Taro cluster caterpillar, taro armyworm, tobacco cutworm, tropical armyworm
Spodoptera litura. It is a member of the Noctuidae.
AUTHORS Helen Tsatsia & Grahame Jackson
Information from Carmichael A, et al. (2008) TaroPest: an illustrated guide to pests and diseases of taro in the South Pacific. ACIAR Monograph No. 132, 76 pp. (https://lrd.spc.int/about-lrd/lrd-project-partners/taropest); and (with Photo 5) from Carmichael A (2008) Cluster Caterpillar (Spodoptera litura). PaDIL - http://www.padil.gov.au. Photo 2 Kumar S, Secretariat of the Pacific Community. Photos 5,6,8-10 Mani Mua, SPC, Sigatoka Research Station, Fiji.
Produced with support from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research under project PC/2010/090: Strengthening integrated crop management research in the Pacific Islands in support of sustainable intensification of high-value crop production, implemented by the University of Queensland and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.