How to Manage Pests

Pests in Gardens and Landscapes

Bougainvillea looper— Disclisioprocta stellata

The bougainvillea looper is a smooth-skinned yellowish or green to brown caterpillar, up to 1 inch long. Like other loopers, or "inchworms", these caterpillars move by drawing their rear up to their head in a loop, then moving their front legs forward. Adults are fast-flying gray to brown colored moths with a wingspan of about 1 inch. Larvae and adults are active at night.


Newly hatched and young larvae feed on tender shoots and along the edges of leaves, causing them to appear scalloped. Older larvae feed on mature leaves. Heavy infestations may cause severe defoliation. Adults do not feed on foliage.


Check bougainvillea periodically during warm weather for signs of a looper infestation. Look for feeding damage and dark fecal pellets. Birds and other natural enemies feed on loopers, but may not provide adequate control at certain times of the year. Applications of Bacillus thuringiensis will control young loopers, but may not be very effective against mature ones. Spinosad is effective against both mature and young larvae.

Bougainvillea looper larvae
Bougainvillea looper larvae

Caterpillar fecal pellets
Looper fecal pellets

Damage to Bougainvillea leaves
Bougainvillea leaves chewed by loopers

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
All contents copyright © 2017 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

For noncommercial purposes only, any Web site may link directly to this page. FOR ALL OTHER USES or more information, read Legal Notices. Unfortunately, we cannot provide individual solutions to specific pest problems. See our Home page, or in the U.S., contact your local Cooperative Extension office for assistance.

Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

Accessibility   Contact webmaster.