Hyblaea puera Cramer
(Lepidoptera: Hyblaeidae)

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Hyblaea puera is a common defoliator of teak (Tectona grandis) that can be found between the West Indies and Fiji. Apart from teak there is a large number of alternative host plants for these polyphagous caterpillars. The eggs are laid singly on the leaves of the foodplant. Typically the larvae turn over the leaf margin and attach it to the rest of the leaf with a silken thread. Hidden in the resulting shelter, the larvae either feed through all leaf tissues (open feeding and hole feeding), often leaving only the skeleton or they chew only the epidermis of the leaves (window feeding). The pupae are also hidden in leaf folds or in between leaves that are tied together. During periodical outbreaks, as they occurred at Brown River or Gabensis, the host can be severely or completely defoliated. Furthermore, the impact of the caterpillars can result in forked tops if the damage affects the leaders. The attack can kill smaller seedlings but usually only decreases the growth increment. Since the damage is very severe and effective control measures are unavailable, the large scale planting of teak has been abandoned in PNG.


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Michael F. Schneider, 1999