Oleander plant caterpillars plague Florida‘s and other southeastern states‘ coastlines. These pests are Caribbean in origin. Oleander caterpillars only devour the tender sections of the leaves, leaving the veins unharmed. Caterpillar damage occasionally kills oleanders, but if the damage is not controlled, it can result in substantial defoliation and leave the plant looking naked. This loss largely affects appearance. Please read on for details on getting rid of oleander caterpillars.
Life Cycle of the Oleander Caterpillar
The adult moths and butterflies that eat oleander plants can be easily identified by their iridescent, blue-green bodies, wings, and abdomen tips that are vividly fiery orange. The body, wings, antenna, and legs all have little white spots on them. The adult oleander wasp moth, which has a shape like a wasp and distinctive patterns, is sometimes known as the “polka-dot wasp” because of its distinctive patterning.
The oleander caterpillar moth lays her female eggs in clusters on the undersides of young, delicate leaves during her brief five–day life span. Caterpillars that are vibrant orange and black emerge from the eggs as soon as they hatch, and they start feasting on oleander leaves.
Once mature, the caterpillars spin silk cocoons to protect themselves during the winter. It’s common to find the pupae tucked away in crevices in tree bark or behind overhangs. The complete life cycle of an oleander caterpillar just takes a few months, so there’s plenty of time for three generations to appear in a single year.
Oleander Caterpillars: Best Way to Get Rid of Them
Start taking precautions as soon as you see caterpillars on your oleander’s leaves. Pick them off by hand, then put them in a bucket of soapy water. If the problem continues, cut off any affected leaves and throw them in a garbage bag. By disposing of any contaminated plant debris, you can stop the infestation from spreading.
Finally, if everything else fails, you can spray Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) on the oleander bush, a natural bacteria that won’t harm any beneficial insects.
When dealing with oleander plant caterpillars, use chemical pesticides only as a last resort because they also kill off the helpful insects that would otherwise consume them.
Are Oleander Caterpillars Dangerous to Humans?
Getting an oleander caterpillar on your skin can produce a severe rash, and touching your eyes afterward can cause irritation and redness. Use gloves when handling an infected oleander plant. If you come into contact with the caterpillars on your skin, wash your hands immediately.
Note: Keep in mind that all parts of oleander plants, including the flowers, are highly toxic.