Nettle Caterpillar

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Scientific name

Darna pallivitta Moore




Adults: Length 1.3 cm, females usually larger than males; forewing is divided by a white diagnonal marking with the upper portion rust-colored and lower portion lighter brown; hindwing uniformly light brown; male antennae bipectinate, female antennae filiform. Adults do not feed.

Eggs: Flattened, transparent ovals, 0.8 x 1.6 mm in size; appearing as glassy sheen on leaf surface that is easily overlooked. Deposited in small clusters, a line, or singly, usually on undersides of older leaves.

Larvae: Length up to 2.5 cm; color white to light gray; two rows of spines, marbled with black and white on light grey; dark longitudinal stripe down the back; retractile yellow head; small thoracic legs.

Cocoons: Female cocoon 8.45 x 6.56 mm; male cocoon 7.88 x 6.42 mm; bean-shaped; light brown in color, covered with coarse silk.

Diagnostic features

Adult: Forewing orange brown with white line from apex to middle; male antennae bipectinate to apex, female antennae filiform.

Larvae: Covered with many rows of stinging spines, vary from white to light gray with dark longitudinal stripe down the back.


Native: Borneo, China, Java, Malaysia (peninsular), Taiwan, and Thailand

Introduced: Hawaii and Japan


Palms: includes Areca, Caryota, Chrysalidocarpus, Cocos, Phoenix, Rhapis, and Veitchia

Other: reproduces on a variety of plants, but feeds on many more

Additional comments

This caterpillar can cause significant defoliation. When present, the larvae deposit a distinctive green or black frass on the leaves.

Stinging spines can cause severe burning and itching of the skin. Noticeable swelling may occur and welts may form that can last for several days followed by a persistent rash lasting for weeks. Individuals with severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, should seek medical assistance.

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