Efforts to Contain Stinging Caterpillar on Oahu

Neil Reimer
Neil Reimer

HONOLULU (KHNL) - State agriculture officials are spraying, setting traps and monitoring a Kipapa Gulch nursery near Mililani where they found thousands of the caterpillars, all in an effort to contain them.

Not soft and furry like some caterpillars, these sting.

Neil Reimer with the State Agriculture Department explains, "When you brush up against it you get stung and you can end up with some pretty good welts."

The spiny fingers contain venom that causes a burning sensation. Some people are allergic.

Scientists believe the caterpillars reached the Big Island in the late 1980's and likely came from Taiwan.

"On the Big Island it's caused a big problem stinging people," says Reimer.

Now they have reached Oahu. Workers at a Kipapa Gulch nursery were stung last month and scientists found thousands of nettle caterpillars at the nursery's three locations. The Oahu nursery owner says his plants came from the Big Island. So officials sprayed them and hung traps, "What you see here are all male moths they fly in and on the bottom a sticky covering and they'll stick to that."

The State Department of Agriculture wants you to report any nettle caterpillar sightings. Here's what to look for.

"You would see feeding on this side just looking at it you would see parts of the leaf actually missing if you turn it over you see the caterpillars actually on the leaf there feeding away, " adds Reimer.

Mother nature is not helping contain these creatures. As part of their life cycle they emerge from cocoons as moths who fly around and lay eggs, resulting in their spread.