Friday, May 7, 2010

Vomiting Caterpillar Outbreak

The South Carolina Forestry Commission has stated that homeowners in the Anderson, Chapin, and Irmo areas have reported caterpillars of the common oak moth (Phoberia Atomaris) feeding on post oaks and other white oaks.

Laurie Reid of the Forestry Commission says this caterpillar is yuckier than most pests because they leave long trails of rusty colored vomit. These trails run from oak trees onto porches and then into garages.

The wintering stage of this creature is that of ground-dwelling pupa, and each spring adults emerge from these pupa. The adults then mate, the female moths lay eggs, and the caterpillars gorge themselves on the new leaves of spring.

These caterpillars have a varied coloration scheme, and are usually a brown mottled color with white, tan, and black mixed in.

There is usually no long-term effect from an outbreak of these caterpillars unless the oak trees are hit with outbreaks multiple years in a row and are also suffering from other problems, but there is a high yuck factor to homeowners. The good news is in just a few weeks, the caterpillars will bed down in underground pupa, where they will remain throughout the summer and winter months.

The South Carolina Forestry Commission develops and protects South Carolina's forest resources, and they have much useful information on their website at

PhotosCourtesyOfSCFC: These damaged oak leaves show the results of the outbreak. These are caterpillars of the common oak moth.

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