California Palm Pests- Caterpillar and Budworm

California Palm Tree Pests

Palm Caterpillar and Palm Budworm

Photograph by: Lyle J. Buss, University of Florida

Some of the insects that attack the buds and flowers of palm trees are the Cabbage Palm Caterpillar and the Palm Budworm. Cabbage Palm Caterpillar Litoprosopus futilis is the larva of an owlet moth. These caterpillars, found throughout Florida, target the cabbage palmetto almost exclusively.

Palm Budworm Litoprosopus coachella is another beetle whose larvae feed on the flowers of a range of fan palms. The caterpillars are about an inch long and a pinkish-green in color. Moths are a light brown with a dark spot on each wing.

Tiny larvae gather by the thousands on the immature buds, entirely denuding the palms of all trace of bloom as they feed. The fully mature caterpillar may then drop to the ground on a silken thread and crawl to a protected pupation site or crawl down the trunk and beneath the base of a dead frond to construct a cocoon from dry palm fibers.

These insects rarely kill palms but cause damage to the blossoms of the palms and eventually weaken the trees. Both insects are a nuisance to humans as well because they often enter homes looking for suitable places to pupate. Insecticides and chemicals help combat and control infestations by these caterpillars.

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