Monday, June 4, 2012
The Genista Broom Moth Caterpillar Eating Baptisia
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Pests in the garden can be a problem and they are a very big problem two days before a big garden tour. A very good preventative for pests, or at least a quick fix is to walk your gardens and make sure you are watching for signs of pests. In my case I honestly missed the signs of an infestation of the genista broom moth larve on my baptisia. Let me explain. I had noticed a few weeks ago that this particular baptisia was being eaten. I checked for pests but did not see any and did not particularly worry since this baptisia was the exact same one that was bothered by the automeris moth larve last summer. Not checking further was the wrong answer. I should've checked under the leaves for the eggs of the genista broom moth caterpillar. Had I done so I may have prevented the decimation to my baptisia. I only show you one of the baptisia but a total of five baptisia were attacked-only two small ones were saved and I am not so sure they too won't wind up with some of these pests.
Before I kill any bugs in my garden I always seek to identify them. I searched high and low on the web for help with this insect and even emailed the picture out for help but I had no luck identifying this larve until I posted a picture on my FB account and Freda of Defining Your Home and Garden posted a link to the identification of this pest. Thanks Freda for the fast identification! A local extension agent here in Tennessee also verified the identification and said I should get rid of these caterpillars soon.
I don't have insecticides here on a normal day to day basis and honestly, even if I did I'm not so sure I would immediately pull them out and spray. My option upon identifying these caterpillars was to handpick them all off from the baptisias. Fortunately I had two teens here who were quickly enlisted to help out with the picking. The caterpillars went in a bucket of plain water to drown. There were too many caterpillars to take care of in this way so as soon as I was able to I went to the Co-Op and purchased some concentrated bacillus thuringeiensis (BT). This was the day before the garden tour. I quickly mixed up the BT in the recommended dosage in a spray bottle and sprayed away all of my baptisia. I am still checking daily for more caterpillars as more more and more hatch out and grow large enough for me to see and am finding more coming each day. I suspect I'll be systematically checking for these pests for the next few weeks.
From what our extension agent said and what I have read online these moths are generally found further south and in Texas where broom is more common. Broom does grow here but it is not a normal plant for this region. Apparently the baptisia is a good host plant for the moth and a number of other flying insects to include both butterflies and moths. For some reason the moths like Tiger Gardens more than the butterflies do to lay their eggs.
And how did the tour go? Well, not one person mentioned the above sad looking baptisia and the tour went wonderfully! I cut out all of the damage and removed the caterpillars by hand and while the baptisia was a shadow of its former self it will recover from the infestation....
in the garden....
P.S. This caterpillar does not appear to be the stinging kind. With the white prickly looking hairs I did not venture to test out my theory but I could not find where it is listed as a stinging caterpillar. It is best not to touch insects or wildlife at all unless you are sure they will not harm you.
Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden