In a strange way, I can relate to the Red Headed Azalea Caterpillar. We both are big healthy eaters, can appear fearsome, and have caused unsightly damage to our surrounding, at times.
The Azalea Caterpillar (Datana Major) is very active in August and September. The adult moths (not butterflies) lay their eggs in late spring. As the eggs mature the young caterpillars skeletonize the azaleas, particularly the Southern Indica Hybrids. Typically, both big and small ones feed in groups. Both are identified by red heads and legs. When disturbed they raise their head in unison as a defense. However, they do not bite or sting with their hairy spinals. Their feeding rarely kills the azaleas but may slow their growth.
Control of the azalea caterpillar in small groups is simple. You may pick off and destroy the affected leaves or branch. For larger populations use Othene, Sevin or Bt, like Thuricide or Dipel.
As the September summer continues, be on the look out for the mild mannered, fuzzy creatures. There are also varieties with multiple legs and striped bodies.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture