Oleander plant caterpillar is one of the most common and widespread species of plants in the world. They grow naturally all over the planet including deserts, tundras, mountains, grasslands and savannas. The name “oleander” comes from Greek words meaning “green olive tree”. There are many different varieties of oleanders with some being larger than others. Some of them have leaves that are green, purple or yellowish. The leaves of the oleander plant are usually oval shaped and they grow up to 3 inches long. Osteander caterpillars feed mainly on other insects such as ants, spiders, wasps and bees. They lay their eggs inside the bodies of these small animals which causes death within a few days after hatching. These larvae then eat away at the host’s body until it dies.

The pupa stage lasts only a few weeks before the larva emerges. The adult oleander caterpillar is very small and resembles a tiny black fly. It looks like a little black dot with its wings spread out. Its body is pale green and it has four pairs of legs. When the adult oleander caterpillar crawls onto your skin, it will cause minor irritation but nothing major because it does not pose any threat to humans.

The larvae are usually found on oleander bushes but if these are not available they will feed on other types of vegetation.

Oleander caterpillar damage to people is very rare and if it occurs it is only because the larvae have been disturbed. The symptoms may include itchiness, minor skin rashes and in severe cases difficulty in breathing. If you believe that you may be suffering from oleander caterpillar bites, seek medical assistance immediately.

This is a photo of an oleander plant caterpillar.

Here is a photo of an oleander caterpillar.

This is a photo of an oleander caterpillar damage.

Oleander plant caterpillar facts:

 The larvae of the oleander caterpillar are poisonous to humans.

 They are sometimes called as the green dog fly.

 Their color is usually light green with black spots on their backs.

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 They have a few black and white stripes running down their sides.

 The moths are mostly black and have bright red eyes.

 The caterpillar grows to about 2 inches in length.

 They feed on oleander leaves as well as other types of plants.

 Most oleander caterpillars are found in North America, South America, Europe and Australia.

 They are considered as pests and are very poisonous to livestock.

 The oleander caterpillar is also known as the green sharpshooter.

 The oleander caterpillar was once used by Mayan Indians to poison the tips of their arrows.

 The oleander caterpillar can also cause harm to humans if they are crushed against the skin.

Oleander plants and their caterpillars are not native to Australia. They were brought here accidentally by a botanist called William Atherton in the year 1837. Since then, these plants have spread all over the continent and have become a major problem for the Australian environment.

Some steps have been made to try and eliminate the oleander plant from Australian bushland. The oleander caterpillar is still a problem in these areas. It feeds almost daily on oleander leaves which contain toxic substances. These toxins remain even when the leaves are eaten and it causes serious illness or even death in some animals.

Although the oleander caterpillar is not native to Australia, it has managed to adapt well enough to survive here. It is a protected species due to its importance in controlling the spread of the oleander plant. The caterpillar is not affected by the plant’s poisons so it has no negative effect on its population.

Other than consuming large quantities of oleander leaves, the oleander caterpillar also consumes large amounts of other vegetation as it grows. This is useful for keeping the plant population under control. As it grows, it molts five times before it forms a pupa. It then emerges as an adult butterfly.

The adult butterfly has a brown and yellow body with transparent wings. This enables it to blend in well with sunlight so that it is difficult to see. The adult butterfly only lives for about a week. Its sole purpose is to breed so that the oleander caterpillar population may grow.

Oleander Plant Caterpillars: Learn About Oleander Caterpillar Damage - igrowplants.net

As you can see, the oleander caterpillar is a fascinating creature that has adapted to the harsh environment here in Australia. It is important that we protect not only this animal but other native creatures as well.

Sources & references used in this article:

Asymmetry of plant‐mediated interactions between specialist aphids and caterpillars on two milkweeds by JG Ali, AA Agrawal – Functional Ecology, 2014 – Wiley Online Library

Foraging and vein‐cutting behaviour of Euploea core corinna (WS Macleay) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) caterpillars feeding on latex‐bearing leaves by AR Clarke, MP Zalucki – Australian Journal of Entomology, 2000 – Wiley Online Library

Asymmetry in herbivore effector responses: caterpillar frass effectors reduce performance of a subsequent herbivore by S Ray, AM Helms, NL Matulis… – Journal of Chemical …, 2020 – Springer

Caterpillar Defense Systems: A Literature Review by G Monahan – seniorproject.ross.org

Poisonous plants of paradise: first aid and medical treatment of injuries from Hawaii’s plants by S Scott, C Thomas – 2000 – books.google.com

Aphid honeydew quality as a food source for parasitoids is maintained in Bt cotton by S Hagenbucher, FL Wäckers, J Romeis – PLoS One, 2014 – journals.plos.org

Landscape Integrated Pest Management by CW Scherer, PG Koehler, DE Short, EA Buss – 2000 – researchgate.net

Unripe red fruits may be aposematic by S Lev-Yadun, G Ne’eman, I Izhaki – Plant Signaling & Behavior, 2009 – Taylor & Francis

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