Banana farmers reel under ‘butterfly’ attack

Larva damages the whole leaf save the midrib

Updated - November 16, 2021 05:37 pm IST

Published - July 07, 2014 10:27 am IST - Thiruvananthapuram:

Scientists at the Kerala Agricultural University have called for heightened vigil against a new and devastating pest that threatens to blight banana crops in the State.

The pest, identified as the Banana Skipper or Palm Redeye ( Erionota thrax ), is a chocolate-brown butterfly belonging to the family Hesperidae. It is also known as Banana Leaf Roller because its larva or caterpillar cuts the leaves at the edges and makes a series of cylindrical rolls before developing into a pupa. A heavy infestation could damage the whole banana leaf, leaving only the midrib intact.

According to Dr. Arthur Jacob, Professor and Head of the KAU’s instructional farm at Vellayani near here, the pest was reported last year from different locations in the State. He said the damage was now found to be spreading to the southern parts, especially Thiruvananthapuram, a major producer of banana. The infestation has been found to be heavy in a few banana farms at Kalliyoor, Kakkamoola and Pallichal near Vellayani.

Originally reported from Southeast Asia, the banana leaf roller pest is distributed in Northeast India, Sikkim, Nepal, the Andaman islands, Mauritius, Malaysia, China, Vietnam, Hawaii and Papua New Guinea. Measuring 4 to 6 cm in length, the white powder-coated caterpillar prefers banana leaves though it is occasionally found to infest coconut palms also.

Citing reports from other countries, Dr. Arthur said natural control was the best remedy. The introduction of natural parasites has been advocated to bring the damage under control.

An expert team of the KAU has advised farmers to be vigilant against the spread of the pest. The scientists have called for field scouting and periodic destruction of the rolled leaves by burning to kill the larvae. “Chemical control measures are seldom required, but if the manual removal of the leaf rolls is not possible, treatments timed to control the newly hatched larvae may be attempted with the backing of field studies,” Dr. Arthur said.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.