August is high season for all those ravenous caterpillars that destroy your garden We Love the pretty Butterflies but hate the damage they cause.
It doesn’t have to be the either or choice. You can attract the butterflies and still get rid of the ravenous green Cabbage worm and the dreaded geranium bud worm.
We love the Monarch butterfly. It’s fun watching the striped caterpillars eat the Butterfly Weed aka Aasclepias and marvel at the miracle of life as caterpillar turns into another butterfly. It’s fun watching the many different butterflies that sip nectar from the Buddleia Butterfly bush. This is a nectar plant and not a host plant and attracts many different butterflies. Lucky for us the Monarch only has the Butterfly weed as both the host and a nectar plant.
Here are some choices. Here are some facts
You can spray selectively and safely to protect the plants that are prone to caterpillar attacks and not spray the host plants that attract your favorite butterflies. Any spray with either Bt or Spinosad on the label is non toxic (except to caterpillars) and safe even for your vegetables. Always read and follow all directions before use. These are the ingredients and the sprays come under many different brands.
You can choose to leave nature alone, trust the birds to eat the caterpillars; hand pick more and live with the damage to your garden. Think of the holes as ornamental lacework.
Two caterpillars you do not want in your garden.
The two varieties of the ravenous green Looper Cabbage worms and the Geranium -petunia tobacco bud worm. When you see the small white butterflies you know the green looper caterpillars are not far behind.
The looper caterpillars are some of the most common garden pests. Called Loopers because of the funny way they move they will attack almost all vegetables and many other plants. One comes from a night flying moth and the other from the small white butterfly. We call them both green loopers or cabbage worms. Both do tremendous damage to your garden.
Your geranium’s worst enemy. One day your geranium or petunia is in full bloom and the next week it is out of bloom. The Geranium bud worm is the sneaky little pest that comes from small night flying moths. Mom Moth lays one little egg on each tiny flower bud. The egg hatches into a caterpillar that goes into the bud, eats it up and emerges leaving a hole and no bloom. This caterpillar is still on your plant feeding away on the leaves but is very hard to see because caterpillars are the same color as what they are eating.
There are a host of other caterpillars out there including the Tomato Horn worm from a big moth and the newer Bougainvillea looper. Bring in a sample in a baggie to Weidner’s Gardens or your local garden center or call the Master Gardeners www.sdmastergardeners.org.
Important Facts. The caterpillars must eat the foliage that you have sprayed. The spray doesn’t stay active long so repeat your spraying every two weeks or so because that butterfly just keeps on laying her eggs. Old sprays that you have had for years will give you clean caterpillars but nothing else. Most brands come as an easy ready to use size or the concentrate.
Caterpillar damage is only temporary. Cut back the damage, feed and wait for new growth. Consider it one of life’s little lessons. It’s not the end of the world.