Velvetbean Caterpillar

John Van Duyn, North Carolina State University, Entomology Extension Specialist

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Velvetbean caterpillar:

The velvetbean caterpillar is another southern species that does not overwinter in NC. In most years velvetbean caterpillar moths migrate into our state in mid-summer and colonize soybean fields. They may reproduce and reinfest late soybeans and added immigration can also occur. Populations usually do not reach damaging levels, however, about one or two years out of 10 many acres of late planted soybeans will become seriously infested. As with soybean looper, this insect occurs with much greater frequency in coastal counties from Cape Lookout and south. High numbers of velvetbean caterpillar seldom infest soybeans inland any further than about Lenoir county.

Velvetbean caterpillar moths become most numerous in August and September. The moths have a wingspan of approximately 1 1/2'' and vary in color from light tan, or cinnamon, to chocolate but always have a black line running from wing-tip to wing-tip; the wings are held out from the body. Caterpillars are green when small but may range from light green, yellow, or black when larger. There are narrow and wider longitudinal light colored lines running the length of the body, the head is yellow or orange, and there are five pair of fleshy prolegs. Velvetbean caterpillars are very active ,often wiggling violently when placed in the hand. Larger caterpillars have a voracious appetite and fields are sometimes stripped of foliage. If present at high numbers, pod clipping may occur after most foliage is consumed.

Since this is a sporadic pest there are no cultural practices directed to velvetbean caterpillar management, however, early maturing fields seldom get economic infestations. Scouting, the application of thresholds, and treatment with insecticide on an as-needed basis are the primary management tactics. This insect is very easily killed with almost any class of insecticide and low rates can be successfully used.

Soybean Page

Other Resources

  1. North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual
  2. North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service

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This page ( was created by John W. Van Duyn Ph D. Extension Entomologist, Wayne Modlin, Res. Tech. III.

Date Created 2/22/00.
Last revised on 2/04/04.

Published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service

Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.

CAUTION: The information and recommendations in these Notes were developed for North Carolina conditions and may not apply elsewhere.