Stinging caterpillar invades central Oahu

Becky Azama
Becky Azama

By Tracy Gladden - bio | email

MILILANI (KHNL) - Kids love to play with caterpillars especially during the summer months, but one pest in Mililani carries a painful sting and people who live there are being warned.

It's popping up on plants in Central Oahu and has the same effect on human skin that fiberglass does.

Becky Azama is a Noxious Weed Specialist.

"Many people will get blisters, itchiness, swelling," she said.

Teams from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture set up traps.

"We're using the pheromone which is like the female moth's pheromone scent and so the males are attracted to that lure in the trap," Azama said.

They hope the traps will catch the males before they get a chance to mate with the females.

"The moth's will fly in and then they'll be attracted to the lure plug and then they will get stuck on the board," Azama said.

The nettle caterpillar live in palms and grasses and can eat all the leaves off a potted plant in just two days. Teams canvas neighborhoods where the nettle caterpillar have been found to tell residents to beware.

"If they find any moths or caterpillar larva they can call the Department and we can talk to them."

Azama says if you are stung by the caterpillar, wash the area with soap and get medical attention immediately if you have difficulty breathing.

The Department of Agriculture is waiting for final permits on a certain kind of wasp to fight the caterpillar biologically.