Vol 120 (2007): Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society
Ornamental, Garden & Landscape

The palm leaf skeletonizer, Homaledra sabalella (Lepidoptera: Coleophoridae): status and potential pest management options

Forrest W. Howard
University of Florida
Published December 1, 2007
  • Homaledra sabalella,
  • Sabal palmetto caterpillars,
  • defoliators,
  • control by natural enemies


The present status of the palm leaf skeletonizer [Homaledra sabalella (Lepidoptera: Coleophoridae)] in Florida and Puerto Rico is discussed. This insect is native to both localities, where its natural hosts are native palms, especially Sabal palmetto in Florida and S. causiarum in Puerto Rico. A complex of natural enemies is associated with it, historically maintaining a satisfactory natural control. In the 1990s, unprecedented outbreaks in both localities of an insect identified as H. sabalella occurred on coconut palms (Cocos nucifera), which was previously considered a marginal host of this insect. A similar outbreak was not observed on Sabal spp. The possibility that the Homaledra sp. on coconut palm may represent a distinct biotype of H. sabalella or a cryptic species is under investigation. The palm leaf skeletonizer outbreak on coconut palms has subsided in Florida during rcent years, but not in Puerto Rico. An undescribed and apparently adventive species of tachinid fly [Phytomyptera sp. (Diptera: Tachinidae)], may be a major factor in the decline of palm leaf skeletonizers in Florida. It is suggested that currently in Florida, control of palm leaf skeletonizers by natural enemies is generally adequate. Chemical or physical control options may be appropriate in limited situations.