I captured this Red-headed hairy caterpillar (Amsacta albistriga)using the Canon EOS 5DS R camera mounted with Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM. Illuminated with my LumiQuest SoftBox III fitted on Godox Ving V860C II E-TTL Li-ion Camera Flash. Red-headed hairy caterpillar (Amsacta albistriga) is a polyphagous devastating pest of rainfed crops.
Moths emerge from the soil during monsoon in waves depending on the frequency of showers. Females lay up to 1,000 eggs in 2-6 days on the under the surface of leaves in weeds, grasses, cowpea, groundnut and even on clods and poles if vegetation is not available.
Caterpillars scrap the green matter but leave the upper epidermal layer intact giving a papery appearance to the leaf.
They migrate to the fields soon after germination. Grown-up caterpillar, with red head and brown band of urticating hairs, feeds voraciously on the leaves leaving behind the petiole, midribs and the main stem.
In endemic areas, larvae swarm from one field to another and devastate the crops.
Extensive damage may compel resowing. The resown crops will be less productive due to delay in sowing and inadequate moisture.
The caterpillars are active for 6-8 weeks and grow up to 5cm. Grownup larvae transform to pupae and then to moths to give rise to another generation if weather conditions are favourable.
The pest can be effectively tackled by the following measures.
- Generally, the moths will emerge after the second day of soaking rains.
- As the moths are attracted to light, a bonfire is made by burning the crop residues or setting up of light traps with burning the electricity bulbs wherever possible at 1-2/hactare keeping the kerosine mixed water below the light trap. Egg mass should be removed near the light source.
- Egg mass and early instar gregarious forms on bunds, stones and weed/stray plants may be destroyed.
- Cucumber may be grown as a trap crop to attract the larvae in crops like groundnut, cotton and castor.
- Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus at 250 LE/hectare is found to be effective to suppress the pest in early stages.