If you have taken a walk through your garden lately, you will have noticed the caterpillars are out in full force, busily chomping their way through your leafy plants. Don’t despair help is at hand.
Caterpillars are extremely clever at camouflage and it’s the holes in the leaves or their dark green droppings that alert you to their presence. Before pulling out the big “toxic chemical” guns stop and think about all the other ways you can control these little leaf munchers. Hand picking is probably the most effective, if only a few plants have been attacked. Large pieces of crushed egg shells scattered around the base of plants can deter some moths. The theory is the moth mistakes the egg shells for other moths and will look for a less populated area to lay its eggs.
Perhaps you might like to make up some home remedies such as a hot pepper spray, this is a great repellent. Grind and sprinkle the pepper around the plant or mix two spoonfuls of hot pepper powder with two cups of water and spray. Alternatively molasses is a great spray. Mix 1 tablespoon of molasses with 1 litre of water and a squirt of liquid soap. This will repel the moths and butterflies because it is too sticky and the caterpillars already on the plant will drop off.
Try to encourage natural predators into your garden by creating a healthy habitat. Predators include lace wings, lady-birds, assassin bugs, trachinid flies, paper wasps and of course small insect eating birds. Encourage nesting sites by densely planting natives and providing a constant water supply.
If you are have to resort to a manufactured products, the least toxic include Dipel, which contains bacillus thurigiensis, a microbe naturally found in the soil. It makes proteins which when eaten by immature larvae becomes toxic. Vegetable dusts, pyrethrum and sticky tapes are also a less toxic option.
Before killing your caterpillars, spare a thought… they mature into beautiful coloured moths and butterflies that grace your garden.