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Plantwise Technical Factsheet

tea twig caterpillar (Ectropis bhurmitra)

Host plants / species affected
Acacia (wattles)
Artemisia vulgaris (mugwort)
Bombax ceiba (silk cotton tree)
Camellia sinensis (tea)
Elettaria cardamomum (cardamom)
Gliricidia maculata
Grevillea robusta (silky oak)
Lantana camara (lantana)
Sambucus (Elderberry)
Shorea robusta (sal)
Tectona grandis (teak)
Theobroma cacao (cocoa)
Uncaria gambir (gambir)
Vernicia montana (Chinese wood oil tree)
List of symptoms/signs
Leaves  -  external feeding
Leaves  -  shredding
The damage caused to tea by E. bhumitra is very similar to that caused by the looper caterpillar Biston supressaria. The young caterpillars first feed on the epidermis of tender young tea leaves nibbling out small holes along the margins causing the leaves to appear as though holes have been punched in them. As the larvae grow in size, they bite off small pieces of leaf at the margin and then eat almost the entire leaf, leaving only the midrib. Later stage caterpillars prefer the mature maintenance leaves and bushes can be completely defoliated in severe attacks. Damage is most severe in bushes recovering from pruning and can result in death of the bushes. Damage occurs mostly during the night and early morning (Cranham, 1966; Danthananryana, 1966).
Prevention and control
As E. bhurmitra is a minor pest of tea, chemical control is seldom used. Natural regulation by parasites and diseases generally keeps the population under control. When isolated outbreaks of the pest occur, the caterpillars and adult moths are collected by hand. However, if the outbreak becomes severe, trichlorfon, chlorfluazuron or tebufenozide can be applied for the early larval stages. In China, successful control of E. bhurmitra has been achieved using nuclear polyhedrosis virus (NPV). As NPVs are host specific, the virus infecting the 'twig caterpillars' has been isolated and mass cultured (Zhu et al., 1981).
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