Saturday, May 23, 2009

Those Pesky Critters

I did some weeding in our garden today, and low and behold my radishes had been stripped! I had noticed some holes in my radish leaves a few days ago and knew something had gotten to them, but I didn't have much time to look and see what was going on until today. But it was already too late! This is what I found:

Why, why why?!! I mean nearly every leaf was gone!! I did some looking and hunting and finally found the pesky critter that caused this damage:

And this:

In fact, I found about 10 of these green caterpillars of various sizes all over my plants! Ugh!! The first one was huge. The kids and I took it out into the woods and put it on a nice leafy plant. I'll spare you the details, but the others were not so fortunate. And since I found the super tiny one shown above on my hand, I knew there had to be more super tiny ones that are hidden somewhere, which means the 4 or 5 leaves left on my plants may be gone by tomorrow morning. So I may have yet another caterpillar battle on my hands, especially if the critters try to move on to more plants.

So I did some research to find out if there are any organic resources to get rid of these creatures. What I learned is that they are very difficult to get rid of, but there are a few environmentally friendly solutions. It's just a matter of trying a few out and seeing what works best.

  1. Handpick caterpillars off your plants. What you do with the caterpillars is up to you--transport them out of your garden onto another plant, like we did by placing the largest caterpillar on a plant out in our woods, or ....well, let's not go there. The problem with that is the caterpillar will eventually turn into a moth or butterfly, which will lay its eggs on another plant, and the eggs will become more caterpillars to eat more plants. And the cycle will just continue.

  2. Just leave them alone. So maybe they'll just eat what they need, build a cocoon, turn into a butterfly or moth and be done with the destruction. Or maybe not. I read that for plants such as cauliflower and broccoli, the caterpillars will eat the outer leaves and leave the rest for you. That would be great for us, but we weren't successful growing cauliflower and broccoli. And obviously they really enjoyed my radish leaves, leaving me just the stems and whatever is underground.

  3. Place sticky bands around the base of plants. This might work for pests such as ants or beetles that would get on your plants by walking up to them, but I'm not sure about the plants that the caterpillars are already on. I mean, they're only on my radishes because a butterfly or moth laid its eggs on my radish plants. But something to consider for other pests.

  4. Spray with an organic pesticide. There are some non-toxic pesticides available that may be biodegradable or organic. Different types include B. Thuriengiensis spray, Beat-a-Bug, chili and garlic spray, biodegradable soap spray such as NatraSoap, Eco Oil, and Pest Oil.

  5. Introduce predatory pests into your garden, including frogs, lizards and wasps. Toads and frogs like little "homes" that provide shade and moisture. You can attract them by turning broken clay pots upside down and in a couple corners of your garden. Raise them up a bit by putting a corner of the pot up on stones so there's room for the toads or frogs to crawl beneath. They're a really good help in keeping garden pests under control.

I'm going to try option #5 next. I have some unused clay pots, so I'll be putting them up around my garden to welcome our toads & tree frogs. We see them every year. In fact, we've had a few tree frogs who somehow managed to unsuccessfully take up residence in our house (the cats found them and that was the end of that), so hopefully we won't have a problem getting them to take up residence in the garden!

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