Rhododendron: Caterpillars

categories: Ornamentals Rhododendron Rhododendron Insects Shrubs

revision date: 2024-06-05 02:10

Looper crawling on edge of rhododendron leaf.
Looper crawling on edge of rhododendron leaf
Photo by: S.J. Collman


Several caterpillar pests occur on rhododendrons, most notably cutworms, loopers, and the obliquebanded leafroller. Cutworms and loopers (various species) feed on leaf tissue, removing large, irregularly-shaped pieces. They are night-feeders and may not be seen on the leaves in the daytime. Obliquebanded leafrollers are usually found on the new growth. Their presence can be determined by the presence of rolled leaves held in place with webbing. The feeding caterpillar can be found inside the rolled leaf.

Management Options

Use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for successful plant problem management.

Non-chemical Management

Select non-chemical management options as your first choice!

  • Naturally-occurring predators such as birds and predaceous ground beetles will help control caterpillar pests, as will parasitic insects.
  • Hand removal of the night-feeding caterpillars can help control their numbers, while the leafrollers can be pinched in the rolled leaves to kill them.

Chemical Management

IMPORTANT: Visit Home and Garden Fact Sheets for more information on using pesticides.

  • Apply when caterpillars are first noticed.
  • Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) will control leafrollers only if they are actively feeding.
  • Use a spreader-sticker with liquid Bt formulations.
  • Homeowners should not make foliar applications to trees over 10 ft tall.
  • Consult a commercial pesticide applicator for treatment of trees and shrubs over 10 ft. tall.

Approved Pesticides

Listed below are examples of pesticides that are legal in Washington. Always read and follow all label directions.

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