Among the insect pests of coconut, the black headed caterpillar is the most notorious and dreaded. It often assumes severe proportions in the coastal and backwater tracts.

The incidence of coconut black headed caterpillar is observed regularly on fish pond bund coconut palms and sole coconut gardens especially from October to April months.

Recent times

In recent years the outbreak of this pest was observed regularly in Visakhapatnam, East and West Godavari districts of A.P. The caterpillar lives on the lower surface of the leaves in galleries made of excreta and silken web and feeds on the chlorophyll tissues. Affected trees present a burnt up appearance.

The periodic out breaks of this pest can be successfully managed by adopting a strategy based on biological control. This strategy was taken to the farmers’ field and it was found quite effective. A severe outbreak of this leaf-eating caterpillar was observed in coconut plantations of Dwarapudi village of Mandapeta mandal in East Godavari district of A.P. The farmers of this village approached the Horticultural Research Station, Ambajipeta, wherein All India Coordinated Research Project on Palms of ICAR is operating, requesting for biological intervention since they were not in favour of chemical sprays.

Alternative

Biological control presents one alternative to the use of insecticides and is the most effective method to manage this pest on eco-friendly basis.

The outbreak of this caterpillar was observed in many coconut growing villages of coastal districts and was effectively suppressed by systematic and inundative release of stage specific parasitoids in pest infested gardens.

In case of low to medium incidence of the pest the parasitoids are released after assessing the pest damage at fortnightly and monthly intervals.

The parasitoids were supplied at no cost basis to farmers.

For further information contact Head, HRS, Ambajipeta (East Godavati Dt): Ph:08856-244436. Dr. H. P. Maheshwarappa, Project Coordinator (Palms), All India Coordinated Research Project on Palms, Central crops plantation research institute(CPCRI), Kasargod 671 124, Kerala, phone: 04994 232 733, mobile:0949 5103236.)