Emerging Pest Alert

Nettle Caterpillar (Darna pallivitta) detected in Oahu, Hawaii nursery

Scientific Name: Darna pallivitta

Describer: Moore

Common Name: nettle caterpillar

Title: Nettle Caterpillar (Darna pallivitta) detected in Oahu, Hawaii nursery


Significance: A plant nursery in Oahu, Hawaii has reported an infestation of the nettle caterpillar (Darna pallivitta Moore). This caterpillar, which is native to Asia, was first detected on the Big Island of Hawaii in 2001 (Salas, 2007). The Oahu report is the first detection outside of the Big Island area.

Issues of Concern: Nettle caterpillar presents a plant and human health concern. As a plant feeder, D. pallivitta attacks a large range of ornamental and edible food crops. For humans, skin contact with the caterpillar’s stinging hairs can cause pain and irritation (Chun et al., 2005), particularly to those who are extra sensitive to bee stings. 

On more than one occasion the California Department of Food and Agriculture has intercepted this pest on infested nursery stock (CDFA-USDA, 2006), and although it has not established outside of Hawaii (in North America), the movement of infested nursery stock is a confirmed pathway to monitor.

Hosts: Considered polyphagous, some hosts of note are: corn, fig, coffee, banana, starfuit, coconut, and various ornamental palms and grasses (Chun et al., 2005).


CDFA-USDA. 2006. California Plant Pest and Disease Report. July 2005-December 2006. http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/phpps/ppd/CPPDR/CPPDR_2006_23-1.pdf  

Chun, S., A. Hara, R. Niino-Duponte, W. Nagamine, P. Conant, and C. Hirayama. 2005. Stinging nettle caterpillar, Darna pallivitta: Pest Alert. Cooperative Extension Service, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Manoa, Hawaii, U.S.A. http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/IP-22.pdf  

NHM. 2007. HOSTS- A Database of the World’s Lepidopteran Hostplants. Natural History Museum. London. http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/projects/hostplants  

Salas, B. 2007. Stinging caterpillars strike at nursery. Star Bulletin. June 17, 2007. http://starbulletin.com/2007/06/17/news/story10.html