BARI scientists report outbreak of ‘black headed caterpillar’ in coconut crop in Bangladesh The scientists of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) recorded outbreak of devastating insect ‘black headed caterpillar (Opisina arenosella)’ in coconut crop during September 2023 at seed multiplication farm of Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC), Subarnachar, Noakhali.

‘The insect pest was found seriously damaging the leaves of coconut plant’ said Dr. Nirmal Kumar Dutta, Chief Scientific Officer and Head of Entomology Division, BARI. The scientists observed that, around 50 coconut plants were seriously infested due to this pest attack. However, farmers should not be panicked due to infestation of this pest, because BARI has already outlined management strategy against this pest. To resist this pest attack, Dr. Dutta advised the farmers not to spray toxic chemical insecticides indiscriminately as this practice would kill the beneficial insects those naturally control this pest. Regular monitoring of coconut plants, removing and burning of seriously affected leaves, release of beneficial insect Bracon hebetor, if possible, and need based spraying the undersurface of the leaves with biopesticide ‘Bt kurstaki’ or ‘spinosad’ can be good options to combat the pest attack. However, in case of severe infestation, less toxic new generation chemical insecticide e.g. chlorantraniliprole or others can be sprayed as last resort with the consultation of extension personnel.

It is to be noted here that, although the black headed caterpillar is a previously recorded insect in Bangladesh, the country experienced no outbreak of this pest in the past. It is regarded as serious pest in many coconut growing countries. The insect in its larval stage causes serious damage to the coconut plants, while the adult moth having a short life span is harmless. So, proper precautionary measures should be taken to resist the further spread and damage of this pest into new areas, because the pest has the potential to cause considerable damage to coconut industry.