This caterpillar, Phauda flammans, is responsible for the complete defoliation of Ficus trees. Eggs are laid on leaves and emerging larvae feed on foliage. After larvae mature, they climb down the tree and cocoon in the soil or in cracks near the base of the tree. This can become a great nuisance not only because of the tree defoliation but also the mess they can cause around a property.
At the beginning of spring (generally March or April), the 1st season adults emerge from hibernation and begin to reproduce. Eggs are laid through late April and larvae begin to feed between April and June. 2nd season adults are active in June and July and the 2nd season larvae feed between July to October. Once the cold season begins, mature larvae hibernate through November to February.
*If the cold season is unusually warm, it is possible to have a 3rd season of adults.
Trees at Risk
Banyan trees such as Ficus microcarpa and Ficus benjamina are specifically targeted by this caterpillar.