Early stage larvae of hairy caterpillars have long whitish hairs growing from the flanks of the body. They feed on the leaves of mango trees in groups and on several other tree species, eventually defoliating them. The mature larvae feature a red head surrounded by white hair and a reddish brown body. They also have a single tuft in the head and another in the anal region. The larvae pupate in a cocoon of hairs on leaves or branches. The moth is bright yellow and has forewings with darker transversal lines and black dots near the wing edge.
Damage on leaves and defoliation is caused by two species of caterpillars with similar features. The females lay yellow, flat, circular eggs in clusters on the lower surface of leaves. Egg nests are conspicuous because they are covered with yellow brown hair and scales. The larvae hatch after 4-10 days. They feed for about 13 to 29 days on the tree leaves until they form a cocoon. After 9-25 days in a silk cocoon the adult moth hatches. During the winter the larvae may perform dormancy.
As the larvae feed in tight groups burning torches can be used to decimate them. Sprays of neem (Azadirachta indica L.) and dhatura (Datura stramonium L.) extracts reduce caterpillar populations. The bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis is a microbial pesticide killing the caterpillars by crippling the gut.
Always consider an integrated approach with preventive measures together with biological treatments if available. Insecticide sprays containing cyphermethrin, deltamethrin, fluvalinat and fenvalerate are effective against hairy caterpillars.