February 2003. The larva and adult of a new pest on gooseberry as well as a photo of a partially defoliated tree in Antigua. Assistance was requested in the identification and suggestions for management (trees are usually grown in close proximity to homes) of this pest. The larvae totally defoliate a 15-ft tree in a matter of days. The pest currently affects only gooseberry and even eat the bark of the more tender shoots.
It is Melanchroia chephise (Stoll, 1782). It is natural distribution ranges from the southern U.S. to Paraguay. It has been recorded from a number of Caribbean Islands like: Guadeloupe, Martinique, Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia, Jamaica and others. There are several websites giving some more information, including some brilliant photographs of this species.
In Suriname, a similar pest, Melanchroia subnotata Warr. (Geometridae), with the same damage, but the moth has two white spots on the fore wings instead of white spots at the tip. The trees normally regrow after the caterpillars disappear. People are advised to shake the branches as the caterpillars will drop, while they remain suspended from a ‘silk’ thread. An easy way to collect and destroy them.