17 October 2012

Cross-striped Cabbageworm Caterpillar

Once again I have severely neglected my vegetable garden - until I resolve the chicken issue, I have only a few beds to plant right now, and they are a little inconvenient.  Back in August I transplanted broccoli there, and it has suffered in the waning days of summer.  I went out there recently and found that they were being eaten by lots of caterpillars.  Despite the demise of the broccoli, I was excited(?) to find another pest to learn about.

I soon figured out that the pest was the Cross-striped cabbageworm caterpillar - not knowing why it was called a cabbageworm, I decided to look it up. They are called cabbageworms, because they feed on cabbage and other cole crops like mustard, cauliflower, turnips, radishes, and broccoli.

At first glance, I only saw a few here and there, but there was significant damage - on further inspection, I found tons of caterpillars on the underside of the leaves.  The odd thing was that there were completely untouched plants next to ones that were skeletonized.  On the untouched plants, I found what looked like egg clusters.

Caterpillars can be a huge problem, especially when they find their food of choice.  Fortunately, if you catch it early enough, there is a good solution.  Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a bacteria that is a biological pesticide for controlling caterpillars.  Because B. thuringiensis is a bacteria and has little or no effect on humans, animals and beneficial insects, it is considered environmentally-friendly.  Bt is probably the active ingredient in all products that are labelled to control caterpillars.  These products are usually a liquid spray applied to plants, which then needs to be ingested by the caterpillars to be effective.

Personally, I have just decided to let the caterpillars have the broccoli this time.  It was just a few plants, but next time I will be prepared.  In the meantime, I will remain vigilant for signs of the next attack. 

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