Palm Leaf Skeletonizer

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Scientific name

Homaledra sabalella (Chambers)

Family

Coleophoridae

Description

Adults: Length approximately 6.5 mm; wingspan 16 mm; color gray to gray brown; forewing with two minute black spots toward the hind margin; hindwing unmarked; antennae filliform.

Larvae: Length approximately 16 mm; surface smooth; color whitish-green to whitish-yellow; stripes faint; head and cervical shield are dark yellow; eight narrow, irregular, faint reddish-brown stripes from prothorax to last segment of abdomen.

Diagnostic features

Adult: Small gray moth; two minute black spots are present toward the hind margin of each forewing.

Larvae: Very small, weakly striped, with non-contrasting head and shield.

Distribution

United States (Florida and California), Caribbean (Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico)

Hosts

Palms are the only recorded host. Hosts include the palm genera Butia, Caryota, Cocous, Latania, Phoenix, Sabal, Serenoa, Syagrus, and Washingtonia.

May be confused with

Homaledra heptathalams is known in Florida from Sabal palmetto. The larvae of this species are solitary, while H. sabalella are in colonies.

Additional comments

Caterpillars feed on the upper and lower leaf surfaces, producing large quantities of "frass" that is often the first conspicuous sign of infestation. Tissue between the leaf veins is usually the preferred food, whereby the veins remain intact giving the leaf a skeltetonized appearance.

In Florida, larvae are present throughout the year and complete five generations per year in northern Florida.

The pattern of damage by this insect is different on palmate vs. pinnate palms.

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