Natural Phenomena of Koa Defoliation on the Big Island Due to Population Explosion of Native Moth » Moth

Koa Moth
(Scotorythra paludicola)
The koa moth (or
koa looper
) is an endemic (native
to a particular place and found nowhere else on
earth) insect on the islands of Hawai‘i, Maui, and
O‘ahu. The caterpillars feed only on koa leaves
and are capable of defoliating mature koa trees.
Population explosions have been documented
historically on Maui and Hawai‘i islands, where
large areas of koa forest have been defoliated. An
outbreak was recently detected in the Hilo and
Hāmākua regions of the Hawai‘i Island.
: The wingspan of the koa moth is roughly
1.5 – 2 inches and wing color varies from pale to dark
brown. Some may feature bands across the wings
with small dark dots or crescents on each wing.
The larvae are referred to as “looper” caterpillars,
referring to their typical “inchworm” movement.
The caterpillars start out tiny and black, but grow to
about 1 inch long, and can vary in color and pattern,
from grey, to brown, to green.

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