Pacific Pests, Pathogens and Weeds - Online edition

Pacific Pests, Pathogens, Weeds & Pesticides

Taro cluster caterpillar (031)

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  • 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.
Common Name

Taro cluster caterpillar, taro armyworm, tobacco cutworm, tropical armyworm

Scientific Name

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. (; and (with Photo 5) from Carmichael A (2008) Cluster Caterpillar (Spodoptera litura). PaDIL - 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.

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