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Species Page

tea twig caterpillar

Ectropis bhurmitra


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Host plants / species affected

Main hosts

show all species affected
Camellia sinensis (tea)
Elettaria cardamomum (cardamom)
Grevillea robusta (silky oak)
Sambucus (Elderberry)
Theobroma cacao (cocoa)
Uncaria gambir (gambir)

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).