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Plantwise Technical Factsheet

mango shoot caterpillar (Penicillaria jocosatrix)

Host plants / species affected
Anacardium occidentale (cashew nut)
Mangifera indica (mango)
Schinus (pepper tree)
Spondias dulcis (otaheite apple)
List of symptoms/signs
Fruit  -  external feeding
Inflorescence  -  external feeding
Leaves  -  external feeding

Eggs are laid singly. They are pale blue-green. When laid on plant parts they are flat and scale-like, but they appear more rounded when laid on spider webs.


A formal description of the larva is found in Gardner (1948). First-instar larvae are about 1.5 mm long with head capsule 0.2 mm wide. Mature larvae are about 2.2 cm long with a head capsule 2.5 mm wide. Second-, third- and fourth-instar larvae had head capsules 0.5, 0.7 and 1.5 mm wide, respectively. Larvae are usually pale green, sometimes with minute purple spots. In the occasional larvae, the purple spots are larger and especially older larvae may be purple all over (a colour similar to that of tender mango leaves).

Five larval instars were recorded (Nafus et al., 1991).


Pupae are dark-brown, relatively rounded with no distinguishing lumps or lobes.


Robinson (1975) and Holloway (1985) published illustrated technical descriptions of the adults of the mango shoot caterpillar. The head, thorax and abdomen are purple-brown. The underside of the thorax and legs are cream coloured. The forewings are dull purple with several darker stripes, including a dark-grey purple spot near the apical end. A pale line circles the anterior tip and continues indistinctly to the back of the wing. Hind wings are pale with a purple-grey border. Males and females are similarly patterned.
Prevention and control
Biological Control

Successful biological control of this species was achieved in Guam (Nafus, 1991). In 1986-87 four species of parasitoids were imported from California and India and released. These were Trichogramma platneri, Aleiodes sp. nr circumscriptus, Blepharella lateralis and Euplectrus sp. nr parvulus. T. platneri was obtained from California and the other three species came from India.

B. lateralis was found several miles from the release point within a few months and became readily established, even though only 45 adult flies were released and many of these had damaged wings. Euplectrus sp. also became established. The egg parasitoid T. platneri, was not recovered and apparently did not establish. The larval parasitoid, Aleiodes sp., was recovered several months after it was released, but no parasitized caterpillars could be found 6 months later, and apparently the population failed to establish permanently.

Both B. lateralis and Euplectrus became common in Guam. Population levels of both parasitoids vary with the season. B. lateralis is more common during the rainy months from August to November, averaging about 20% parasitization in the wet season and 2% in the dry season. In contrast, Euplectrus sp. parasitized about 68% of larvae during the dry months, but only 20% during the wet months. Together they reduced the caterpillar populations to one quarter of previous levels. The damage caused by the mango shoot caterpillar has decreased from about 55% leaf area consumed to about 15%. As a result, production of mangoes increased 40-fold.

Chemical Control

Due to the variable regulations around (de-)registration of pesticides, we are for the moment not including any specific chemical control recommendations. For further information, we recommend you visit the following resources:

The mango shoot caterpillar is generally considered a minor pest in Asia (Hill, 1983). This is also the case in Hawaii even though it is a recent accidental introduction to those islands (Davis, 1969) where it might be expected to become a major pest in the absence of its usual natural enemy complex. The fact that it is a minor pest in Hawaii may indicate the presence of indigenous natural enemies attacking the invader. In Fiji it is also considered to be a minor pest (Robinson, 1975). CSIRO (1970) lists P. jocosatrix as a serious pest of mango in Australia, but then goes on to describe the damage as boring of the shoots causing wilting. It seems probable the author has confused this moth with another noctuid which does cause such damage.

In Guam, prior to a successful biological control problem, it was a serious pest of mango. The caterpillars removed about half the new foliage (Schreiner and Nafus, 1991). This left the trees with little energy to flower, but when they did, most of the inflorescences were also eaten by caterpillars (Schreiner, 1987). Reduction of caterpillar numbers following successful biological control resulted in a 40-fold increase in fruit production within 2 years (Nafus, 1991).
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