Monday, April 11, 2011

Scary critters!

This is black plum, Syzygium cumini,  'duhat'or 'lomboy' in our Filipino and Visayan dialects. It has berry-like fruits, which are very dark violet or blackish violet when fully ripe. Maybe it is the tropical counterpart of blue berries. The juice is also dark violet with sweet astringent taste. They flower during the dry season and the fruits are ready at the start of the rainy season. The fruits also make nice wine. Both the fruits, bark and leaves also have health and medicinal properties.

However, there are also insects which find this plant very delicious or nutritious perhaps. A swarm of their caterpillar can totally defoliate a big tree. We have this medium tree in our property, and yearly we get this swarm of moth larvae. The tree is at the street side and passersby cannot just walk under it for fear that the hairy transients will fall on them. They look like a patch in  this  photo during daytime, and they begin to crawl and locate the leaves the whole night. In the morning they have defoliated the whole branch or many branches, and in 2-3 days the whole tree is fully bald.

We are scared of these catterpillars because of their numbers and the itchy hairs on their bodies. After finishing the leaves they will start to pupate elsewhere totally far from the duhat tree. And until now i haven't learned how they look like as adults. I just know they are moths, but i still dont know how they look like. My little net search said they are gypsy moths, and i am glad i have their adult in my files. Now i know how to relate the caterpillar with the adult moth.
They occupy a big area of the main trunk, remain motionless and unscary during daytime.

Last year my mother torched them to death. Now the patch is smaller than last year.

The area is high on the trunk, torching them is difficult. Our consolation is that the fruits of this tree is not really very sweet and delicious. We might as well, share them with these larvae.

Adult gypsy moth


  1. Coincidentally I saw lots of these moths not far away from home. I wasn't scared then. But now I am. Calling birds, dragon flies and praying mantis. SOS!

  2. My hair stands on end just looking at that patch on the tree trunk and can imagine the creepy crawlies falling on my head! Urrggghhh...

  3. When I read that the black plums might be a tropical counterpart of blueberries, I pictured a bush on which the black plum grew. Blueberries grow on bushes. I was surprised, as I read further, to learn that the black plum grows on a tree. Another fruit that the black plum may resemble is elderberries. Google elderberries and let me know whether or not you agree. I wouldn't like those caterpillars either. I am itching just thinking of them!

  4. These caterpillars are rally scary. Never observed such a large pitch of cats. The black plum is recommend to diabetic patients, may be because of its low sugar contents.

  5. Hi Andrea, Just thinking of those caterpillars and moths makes me chill. Don't think I'd like those berries... Sounds like elderberries to me.


  6. Yipes, they are a scary bunch, not welcome here, the little munching machines.

  7. I love "lumboy" (the ilocano for Black plum). I eat a lot of this when its in season. Come to think of it I love most of our tropical fruits, except Durian.

    If ever I see such a swarm of these ugly and itchy caterpillars in any of our trees I would definitely do what your mother did, torch them to death.

  8. Hello. My husband certainly would do with these fruit wine. And caterpillars are disgusting, trees omijalabym them from afar. Yours

  9. One - yes you better call their predators, however in our case it looks like my mother is their best predator ever, by torching them! Maybe all other creatures will not try to eat them, even the crows and hawks will be scared!

    p3chandan - that is exactly the way we feel when we pass by under that duhat tree. It also sometimes eat santol or guavas, when their staple duhat is not available.

    Linda - this black plums grow in very tall trees, have oblong fruits and sweet-tangy fruits. The elderberries grow on bush or very small trees, and have round fruits. Moreover, elderberries have cyanogenic glycosides in all parts of the plant which make them dangerous to eat, so must be eaten with caution. Both have health and medicinal properties. Our duhat is one of our minor unutilized fruits, not really used in commerce. Besides,they belong to very different families, duhat is Syzygium cumini, while elderberry is Sambucus canadiensis and have many species too.

    Thanks for informing me about elderberry, i learned about it just now.

    Birdy - i thought you are the authority on these butterflies and moth, so thought you are familiar with it. That patch is narrower than it used to be in the last years.

    Betsy - they are more useful when made into wine and herbal medicines.

    Donna - yes they are little munching machines, very good description.

    SR - i read it is lomboy in Visayan, so it is lumboy in Ilocano? Oh i wonder which started first, we call them duhat. I cannot do the torching, 'awa' ako! When mother torch it she also 'sigaw', shriekingly scared, but she has to coz nobody will!

    Giga - the wine is really lovely, i use to give this to friends as gifts when available.

  10. There are some caterpillars attack in some places in my country, Indonesia, thousands of caterpillar are all over the places, very scary.

  11. Nice black plum! Sorry for those larvaes. But the tree has their food and I am sure they will keep coming.

    Btw, angelonia has the colours you mentioned. so, probably it is the same plant you can get at your place.

  12. Goodness, how much do I miss Duhat, I love that fruit. Duhat with plenty of rock salt.....yummy!!!

  13. Daisugi - this is your first visit here, thank you so much. Of course you have lots of these too, our countries have almost the same climate.

    Stephanie - I realized we are talking of very different plants: Angelonia and Impatiens balsamina are so far away genus and species! It's good i searched on your Angelonia, i learned about them.

    Mark and Gaz - yes, we do that too, put salt with duhat inside 2 inverted plates, shake and ohhh, eating time!

  14. I've a shiver going down my spine looking at so many of them in one place. One or 2 wouldn't bother me - but that many that you have would. We've got hairy caterpillars here that can give you asthma.

  15. The moth larvae you have on the tree bark is about 2-2 1/2 inches long. I've seen the same moth you named as a gypsy moth. Maybe it's not the right match because that moth is small and not proportional to the size of the larvae. It's just my observation and you can still be correct.

    If I have time, I will show you the picture of larvae and moth that I am talking about.


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