Widespread. Asia, Africa, South and Central America, the Caribbean, Oceania. In Australia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands.
Major pest in teak plantations of southern India; only occasional outbreaks in Africa, Central and South America. Also on mangrove, Vitex, African tulip tree and more. Outbreaks (repeated defoliation) extends time taken for trees to mature.
Eggs laid in veins underside of leaves, larvae greenish-black heads, white lines along sides and wide orange-ochre bands along back, long scattered hairs. Larvae fold leaf margin and eat inside. When mature, up to 4.5 cm, descend on silken threads, making cocoons from dried leaves and then pupate. Adults greyish-brown forewings, hindwings black with orange-yellow spots, wingspan 3-4 cm.
Spread in India possibly on pre-monsoonal winds initiating populations on new leaf flushes leading to massive explosions and defoliation.
Natural enemies: not effective in preventing damage against sudden population explosions, but nuclear polyhedrosis virus effective for ultra-low volume spraying.
Chemical control: Bt and neem effective. But high application costs to forests (fogging machines or aircraft) prevents wide use.