Hyblaea puera (Cramer, 1777)
Teak Defoliator
(one synonym : Aenigma mirificum Strecker, 1876)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Hyblaea puera
(Photo: courtesy of Ian F.B. Common from: Moths of Australia)

The Caterpillars of this species are brown with a pair of narrow yellow lines along each side enclosing a dark brown band. The caterpillar is a pest overseas on :

  • Teak ( Tectona grandis, LAMIACEAE ),

    and they also feed on other trees such as:

  • White Mangrove ( Avicennia marina, ACANTHACEAE ),
  • Calabash Tree ( Crescentia cujete, BIGNONIACEAE ),
  • Chastetree ( Vitex trifolia, LAMIACEAE ),
  • Fiddlewood ( Petitia domingensis, VERBENACEAE ).

    The eggs are laid on the undersides of the leaves. The caterpillar cuts a semicircular piece of leaf and folds or rolls it over to form a shelter. The mature Caterpillar often lives in this shelter by day, and feeds nocturnally.

    Hyblaea puera
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The adult moth has a wing span of about 4 cms. It is brown with a yellow arc or series of blotches on each hindwing.

    Hyblaea puera
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    Underneath, the forewings are brown with two yellow marks on the costa of each forewing, and orange under each hindwing with a dark mark at the tornus.

    The eggs are laid singly, on the underside of young foodplant leaves, often near the central vein.

    The species is endemic across south-east Asia, including

  • India,
  • Java,
  • New Guinea,
  • Thailand,

    The species appears to migrate with the Monsoon winds. It has recently been reported Central America and Africa, including :

  • South Africa,
  • Surinam.

    It also occurs in Australia in

  • Northern Territory, and
  • Queensland.

    Efforts are being made to control the pest using :

  • Neem Extract,
  • insecticides such as Deltamethrin,
  • a Nucleopolyhedrovirus (HpNPV),
  • the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis ( BACILLACEAE ),
  • the Fungi Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium anisopliae, and
  • a wasp Sympiesis species ( EULOPHIDAE ).

    although these may be of little value given the migratory behaviour of the moths.

    Further reading :

    M.W.Baksha and M.J. Crawley,
    Population dynamics of teak defoliator, Hyblaea puera Cram. (Lep., Hyblaeidae) in teak plantations of Bangladesh,
    Journal of Applied Entomology,
    Volume 122, no. 2-3 (1998) pp. 79-83

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pp. 334, 336-337.

    Pieter Cramer,
    Uitlandsche kapellen voorkomende in de drie waereld-deelen,
    Amsterdam Baalde, vol. 2 (1777), pp. 10-11, and also Plate 103, figs. D,E.

    S. Lakanavichian and B. Napompeth,
    Ecological study on teak defoliators, Hyblaea puera and Eutectona machaeralis in Thailand,
    Proceedings IUFRO Workshop on Pests and Diseases of Forest Plantations, Bangkok (Thailand), 5-11 Jun 1988,
    Chaweewan Hutacharern, K.G. MacDicken, M.H.Ivory, and K.S.S. Nair (eds.),
    International Union of Forestry Research Organizations, Vienna (Austria),
    Royal Forest Department, Bangkok (Thailand), 1990, p. 155-166.

    K.S.S. Nair and V.V. Sudheendrakumar,
    The teak defoliator, Hyblaea puera: Defoliation dynamics and evidence for short-range migration of moths,
    Proceedings of the Indian Academy of Sciences (Animal Sciences),
    Volume 95, no. 1 (1986), pp. 7-21.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 19 May 2011, 9 August 2015, 20 May 2020, 7 April 2021)