Tag Archive | caterpillars

Plant-derived Pesticides

The organic arsenal does include a number of pesticides, but organic gardeners, knowing that “natural” is not the same thing as “harmless”, use these only as helpers of last resort. Although they are comparatively benign, all can hurt non-target organisms like bird, fish, and beneficial insects. Some, including ryania, are very strong poisons to mammals as well; while if rotenone gets into your system, it may help trigger the development of Parkinson’s disease.

Always wear protective clothing when applying pesticides. Read the label carefully to be sure the pesticide you’re using is approved for the pest (and the plant) on which you intend to use it. Follow dosage directions; this is definitely one place where more is not better.

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Corn earworm damage

Neem, from the neem tree, Azadirachta indica. Multiple actions: repels pests, destroys their appetites, kills them by disrupting their growth. Also has some fungicidal properties. Useful against a wide range of pests including flea beetles, whiteflies, corn earworms, cabbage loopers, and root-knot nematodes.

Pyrethrum, from flowers of Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium and C. coccineum. Instant knockdown, which is very gratifying. But it doesn’t always last; if the dosage is improper or the insect has resistance, the victim gets up and staggers away as soon as you turn your back. If you use the proper amount, however, and manage to get it to land on the target, pyrethrum is useful against almost any invertebrate that may be plaguing you. (Be very careful about using pyrethrum or ins derivatives on cats; small amounts rid them of fleas, but if you overdo it, you will also be rid of Fluffy)

Rotenone, from several species of legumes in the genus Lonchocarpus. Use it and watch the beetles die. Mexican bean beetles, potato beetles, cucumber beetles — even the adults of these hard-to-kill scourges are not immune. Neither, unfortunately, are fish, birds, small mammals, or much of anything else. Rotenone degrades rapidly, but it’s very strong stuff while it lasts.

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Imported cabbage worm and the damage it can cause

Ryania, from a shrub called Ryania speciosa, and like rotenone, short lived but no joke. Use on the caterpillars of codling moths and cabbageworms, and the larvae of Japanese beetles, bean beetles, and potato bugs.

Sabadilla, from the South American plant Schoenocaulon officinale. Use only when all else fails, on things like thrips, squash bugs, and tarnished plant bugs. Sabadilla is extremely toxic to bees; be sure to apply it only after they have gone home for the night.

Peperonyl butoxide (PBO) may or may not be plant derived; it can come from sesame oil but is also chemically synthesized. It is an insecticide in its own right, but it is most commonly used as a synergist, combined with other pesticides (especially pyrethrum). It destroys an insect’s ability to fight off the pesticide, making the product more effective, and at lower doses, than it would otherwise be. But PBO is not on everyone’s organic-acceptable list, and may cause health problems, so you may prefer to avoid it.

 

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Milkweed for Monarchs

by OCMGA Master Gardener Holly Boettcher

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Monarch Butterflies are probably the most recognized and beloved butterflies in North America. Did you know that Monarch Butterflies cannot survive without milkweed plants? That is because their caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed and no other plant will do.   Monarchs have lost a significant amount of that critical host plant because of shifting land management practices, use of herbicides, and because of loss of habitat in both the United States and Mexico. Here are some simple steps that you can implement if you would like to take action.

Plant Native Milkweed!

Monarch caterpillar

Planting milkweed is one way that you can help not only the Monarch but other pollinators too! If you Google where to buy native milkweed seeds you will find numerous places to order and many are free. You can also purchase plants from an area garden center or our local chapter of Wild Ones during their spring native plant sale. You might contact a local landowner to find out if they are willing to allow you to dig up plants from their property. The plants will do best if you transplant them early in the season and be sure to dig deep to get as much aof their root system as possible.

Be sure to plant milkweed plants that are native to our area.   Look for Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, or Butterfly Milkweed. Avoid planting Tropical Milkweed because the wrong species of this plant has been found to increase odds of the Monarch becoming infected with a crippling parasite. This is most often occurring in warmer environments such as Texas and the Gulf Coast States but is worth a mention in case you are a visitor from the south reading this article! Beginning in the early spring, throughout the summer, and into the late fall, you can search for the Monarch anywhere you see milkweed plants in abundance.

Provide Nectar Plants

Monarch butterflies enjoying Joe Pye Weed

Monarchs also need nectar plants and will sip from many different flowers to nourish themselves throughout the season. Why not plant native perennials that bloom at various times from their arrival, breeding season, and until they migrate in the fall.

Some common plants that will provide nectar are: Columbine, Blue Sage, Spiderwort, Goldenrod, Penstemon, Little Bluestem, Wild Anemone, Pale Purple Coneflower, Joe Pye Weed, Poppy Mallow, Culvers Root, and Blood Root to name a few.

Enjoy

I recently learned that the Monarch Butterfly communicates with both colors and scents. And there are numerous opportunities to observe them when you consider the 4 stages of their life cycle which includes four generations: the egg, the caterpillar (larvae) the chrysalis or pupa, and the beautifully developed butterfly.

Take the time to look for them, preferably with your children or grandchildren. The giggles you share while watching a Monarch sip from a nectar plant, or while sitting under the summer sun watching a Monarch Caterpillar munch the leaf of a milkweed plant is a memory to be savored for a lifetime.

Holly is a regular contributor to Appleton Monthly magazine

 

 

Who Doesn’t Love Butterflies?!

Watching butterflies in their ethereal flights over the garden is surely one of gardening’s greatest pleasures, but since baby butterflies, aka caterpillars, eat the leaves of garden plants, you may want to limit your garden’s attractions to the nectar-producing flowers on which the adults feed.

If you do this, you won’t have nearly as many butterflies (they don’t stick around long if there is no place to lay eggs), but you will also have less of a problem with the raggedy-leaf look.

Butterfly garden containing goldenrod, black-eyed Susans, and Joe Pye Weed.

Alternatively, you can plant flowers for the adult butterflies in your garden, and beyond the garden’s borders leave the weeds that caterpillars are fond of. Of course, weeds don’t stay put, so plan to be vigilant about incursions if you decide to go this route.

Plants for butterflies: butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), bee balm (Monarda didyma), lilac, black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp), cosmos, lantana, gayfeather (Liatris spicata), phlox, goldenrod, and globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa).

Weeds for caterpillars: clover, wild fennel, milkweed, nettle, Queen Anne’s lace, Bermuda grass, sorrel, and thistle.

Garden plants caterpillars adore: parsley, lupine, hollyhock, mallow, dill, fennel, cultivated milkweed.

Monarchs and Swallowtails

The Monarch caterpillar is almost as beautiful as the butterfly

Monarchs and swallowtails feed on different plants at different stages. There are four distinct stages in a butterfly’s life cycle: the egg, the caterpillar or larva, the chrysalis or pupa, the adult butterfly. Only the second and fourth stages eat, and the caterpillars do most of it.

Monarch caterpillars specialize in various species of milkweed, whose bitter juice makes them distasteful to predators like birds. In its butterfly stage, the monarch may also drink the nectar from goldenrod, thistle, cosmos, butterfly bush, lantana, and lilac.

During its caterpillar stage, the Eastern black swallowtail dines on members of the carrot family, which includes Queen Anne’s lace and parsley. During its butterfly stage, the swallowtail prefers nectar from flowers such as thistle, phlox, clover, and purple loosestrife.

Caterpillar Killers

If you are keen on butterflies, be extra careful about how you apply pesticides, including environmentally benign ones like Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). As far as the pesticide is concerned, a caterpillar is a caterpillar whether it’s a cabbage looper or a monarch-in-waiting.

Fortunately, caterpillars are comparatively fussy eaters. Those cabbage loopers eat many plants, but only in the cabbage family. They don’t eat carrot family members like the parsley and dill that baby swallowtails dote on.

If butterfly plants are growing close to something you absolutely must protect with pesticide, don’t use a dust, which will spread. Use a liquid, and paint it on the plant with a brush (sprays drift, even on still days).

Butterflies gather water by “puddling”

Water

Give them a place for puddling – Butterflies often congregate on wet sand and mud to partake in “puddling,” drinking water and extracting minerals from damp puddles. Place coarse sand in a shallow pan and then insert the pan in the soil of your habitat.

Now, sit back and enjoy the beautiful spots of color darting in and around your flowers all summer!

 

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman