NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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The eastern pine looper, Lambdina pellucidaria, is a species whose immatures feed as loopers on yellow pine needles. It is also called the pitch pine looper and the yellow-headed looper. The loopers are mottled brown and gray with brown and gray mottled stripes along the body. The head is realtively large and has brown and black spots. The first three pairs of legs are yellowish. The two pairs of abdominal legs are mottled. These caterpillars grow to about 11/4 inch long and crawl about with a looping motion. Eastern pine loopers occur from August to November. When mature, the caterpillars descend to the duff and pupate there or in soil. Pupae are relatively slender and turn dark brown. The moths are mottled brown to gray and have a darker line across the wing as well as some darker wing veins. The wingspan is up to 11/2 inch wide. The moths emerge from the pupae the following May and lay oval, pale green eggs that turn yellowish to tan eggs in batches along pine needles until the end of June. This looper is found throughout North Carolina where it has one generation per year.

Eastern pine looper

Eastern pine loopers are slender, smooth caterpillars that "inch" about.

This eastern pine looper

This eastern pine looper is showing off its two pairs of abdominal legs.

Eastern pine loopers pupate

Eastern pine loopers pupate at the bases of the pines they feed on.

This eastern pine looper moth

This eastern pine looper moth is in its resting position, a broad triangle.

eastern pine looper moths

These eastern pine looper moths appear somewhat gray.

Eastern pine looper eggs

Eastern pine looper eggs are pale green when first laid.

Host Plants

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Eastern pine loopers feed on pitch pine, red pine, and other hard pines. It has also been reported to feed on oak (which seems like a stretch to me). These loopers chew out only a portion of a needle, which then turns brown. If an infestation is heavy and persists for 2 or 3 years, such defoliation may kill pines.

eastern pine looper damage

This is an extreme example of eastern pine looper damage.

Residential Recommendations

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Rarely do eastern pine loopers become abundant enough to even be noticed, although at times they have caused local defoliation of pines. If a specimen tree is small enough to spray, it should be possible to eliminate the loopers with a single application of a pyrethroid or another pesticide labeled for caterpillar control in residential landscapes. When used as directed, pyrethroids are very toxic to insects but are not particularly hazardous to humans and pets (other than fish—avoid using pyrethroids around pools, ponds, and streams). Such pesticides are available in the garden section of big box stores and in plant centers and nurseries.

Other Resources

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For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local Cooperative Extension Center.

This Factsheet has not been peer reviewed.


Professor Emeritus
Entomology & Plant Pathology

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: May 14, 2020
Revised: May 14, 2020

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