Hairy caterpillars damage cereal crops

Grass anthelids have been another group of caterpillars feeding on cereal crops in the Victorian Mallee.

Where have they been reported?

Grass anthelid caterpillars, or ‘woolly bear caterpillars’, have been found in low to moderate numbers feeding on wheat and barley crops around Swan Hill in the Victorian Mallee. In several instances these caterpillars had chewed completely through tillers within the crop and control was required. Damage was patchy in distribution, but not just on crop edges, as often occurs with this species.

Grass anthelids are quite common in early–mid spring in western Victoria, but they are not always considered a pest. Grass anthelids are also found in other parts of Victoria and New South Wales.

About anthelid caterpillars

There are many species of anthelid caterpillars. However, as a group they are highly distinctive due to their body being covered with tufts of stout hairs or bristles. These hairs can sometimes cause skin irritation.

Grass anthelids are a subset of anthelid caterpillars (Pterolocera spp.); they are considered minor pests that occasionally build up within pastures, or on the edges of cereal crops where there has been pasture. Species within the Pterolocera genus are not well understood, although the large larvae are generally the most damaging.

For more information about grass anthelids, including their occurrence, lifecycle, behavior and management strategies, go to grass anthelid within the new PestNote series.


Sources of field reports

Melina Miles – Entomologist, Queensland DAFF (Toowoomba)

Matthew Witney – Consultant, Dodgshun Medlin (Victorian Mallee)

Cover image: Photo by Carol Page, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

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PestFacts south-eastern keeps growers and advisers informed about invertebrate pests and beneficials in broadacre crops and pastures during the winter-cropping season in Victoria and southern New South Wales.


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