A hairy yellow caterpillar

Hello ECHOcommunity,

This little beast below, along with his all his brothers, sisters and cousins, is ravaging our bean crop and is about to get into the lady finger. Does anyone know of a quick fix now to get rid of them, (artificial pesticides not allowed), and have recommendations for an IPM approach in the future?
(Our farm is in Myanmar)

Hi Wayne,

It (and it’s damage) looks like a tiger moth of some sort (family Arctiidae). Thresholds for other tiger moth species are around 40% before flowering and 20% during flowering and fruiting. Bacillus thuringensis var kurstaki (a biological control) should be effective against this pest if you have access to it. It is most effective on younger instars and must be ingested to be effective. If not, early morning mechanical removal may be necessary to mitigate more damage. If the hairs sting, make sure to wear gloves!

I know farmers who have tried ash, cayenne sprays, neem, and several other plant extracts. Is there something that farmers already use or make locally? If local farmers don’t have practices they are already using to control caterpillars, you could try some of the ideas that farmers have tried in East Africa against fall armyworm (FAW; it is in a different family). Here’s a link to a video that goes over several IPM practices and technologies against FAW.

  • encourage native beneficial insects (wasps)
  • leave trees and native vegetative areas around your field for stabile habitat for beneficial insects
  • check twice a week at beginning of season for caterpillars and mechanically destroy
  • utilize local knowledge and resources to make an effective natural control that doesn’t damage the crop or beneficial insects

Crop monitoring for early detection will be key for next season so that you can apply whatever you find to be effective this season at the right timing (threshold).

Do you know where they came from? Did you see eggs on plants or in your field or did you notice a neighbor’s crop get affected first? Some cultural controls might be helpful if they are migrating to your field from a neighbor’s plot.


Hi Wayne - it does seem the year for everyone to get breakouts of nasty food eating bugs. Cuba lost most of its bean crop to previously peaceful thrips. The local solution (chemicals are embargoed by the US or frightened away by their laws) is neem - either from seed oil or from the leaves. Seed crushing yields a higher quality oil but is a major pain to collect. You may have something near T Tree which grows fast and the oil comes from the leaves.

If this is a sudden appearance - ask around locally among the older generation to see if this is long cycle. Obviously the eggs came from somewhere and not just one or two adults. You may find you are missing some birds or some other creatures which normally control the population.

Cuba has major scientific institutes working on various bio controls all the time. Worthwhile calling the embassy to see what link they could give you. Up to now I don’t think that they are bulk exporting.

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great advice from Stacey I concur with all. Soapy water may be an immediate fix. tobacco soaked in water is toxic to many insects good and bad, but in my view acceptable - it’s not persistent. Neem oil could also work. Yes may be local knowledge of insecticidal plants.

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Hi Stacy,

  Thanks so much for your reply, and all the work you do answering

questions for the community.

  Is there an online calculator available that we can use to work

out a balanced diet for our stock (dairy goats)?

  We are just starting on this venture and relying on local

practices to supply their food, but I’m not convinced that local
practice is necessarily the best practice.



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Thanks Chris,

  Unfortunately I'm trapped in New Zealand and the land I'm

developing is in Myanmar, so have to rely on Messenger messages
with my local team to try and sort out the problem.

I’ll pass your comments on to them



Hey again Wayne!

Great question on balancing local diets for dairy goats! I have heard this need repeatedly from the network. There are a lot of feed balancing calculators out there (some free, some cost money), but most of them focus on meals and/or don’t focus on forages which is what most of our network depends on. If you only have a few ingredients, or are meal-focused, here’s a link to a list of resources to filter through to see what is appropriate for your feed! If you are mostly feeding forage - see below.

Here’s an intro article about feed options for ruminants in the tropics by Keith Mikkelson who has a lot of experience in on-farm feed generation and works in the Philippines. He included some nutritional tables, interesting tips, and ideas.

I’ve been slowly working alongside a partner at our East Africa office to gathering nutritional data from primary literature to create a forage-based feed calculator. It is by no means ready yet, but I can absolutely try to use it to balance your feed for you to get you a place to start from. I would need the following information:

  • number of animals
  • type of animal (I’m going to assume dairy goat)
  • feed ingredients (both meals/grains and forages you often feed. I have a list of over 100, but will quickly try to find any that you feed that I don’t have)
  • how long one batch of feed lasts (or what you want it to last). Do you forage and feed daily? or do you want to calculate on a weekly basis?

Feel free to email me if that’s easier. My email is sswartz@echonet.org

If someone already knows of a tropical-foraged, tropical-breed based feed calculator, please share it! You will save me a lot of time and effort

Just a heads up. I have been told by farmers in Belize not to introduce tobacco to a farm or garden as it can contain other contaminates that can introduce other infections. Not so sure about tabacco tea however.

that might be tobacco mosaic virus that as far as I know only affects similar Solonacae - tomatoes, potatoes, aubergine - if so, yes it’s a risk, tho a low one especially if indoors (polytunnel etc. with overhead watering)