Funny word when you say it enough times, which is easy to do when they are defoliating large swaths of the Eastern forest. Tips for defending your own trees follow, as soon as I get the rest of the callas in and the tomatoes mulched.   But first,   a word about defending your dill, which can also be defoliated by a caterpillar.

Unlike the ones that are eating the forest, which grow up to be small, drab moths of no special aesthetic distinction, the caterpillars that eat dill, parsley, and fennel become black swallowtail butterflies (Papilio polyxenes).

Fortunately, there’s no need to kill them to preserve your   herbs – they like Queen Anne’s lace just as much as they like other umbellifers, so you can just gently pick them up and move them to wilder pastures. There are 3 generations a year, but unless you have acres and acres to tend, it doesn’t take long to relocate all threats to the tabbouli.

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  • Edna Poole Said,

    I have loads of caterpillars (black with a white stripe on both sides of its back). They have destroyed my tomato plants, amd aare doing the same with peppers and basil. I have an organic garden and don’t know how to get rid of them. Have used soap and Safer – they don’t work.

    Edna Poole.

    Hi Edna, and welcome

    I’m not sure what kind of caterpillars you have – the primary pests of tomatoes and peppers are tomato hornworms, but they’re very distinctive looking and neither black nor striped (unless you count the diagonals on the back).

    Anyway, doesn’t matter. The organic pesticide for caterpillars is Bt – Bacillus thuringiensis – widely available under different brand names. Be sure to get one labeled for caterpillars; there are different strains of the bacillus, some of which are for mosquito, not caterpillar, control.

    It’s important to follow the label directions; dilution rate, time of application and such are crucial for best results. And don’t expect instant knockdown. The caterpillars must eat the treated material (just walking over it won’t affect them) and then it takes a while to work, so although they stop eating pretty fast they don’t keel over and croak before your very eyes.

    Also, please be sure to use the Bt sparingly and only on threatened plants. It kills all caterpillars indiscriminately, including the ones destined to become butterflies. (Tomato hornworms become hawkmoths).

  • Edna Poole Said,

    Thank you for your reply.

    I live in Florida and the weather has been in the mid nineties since May. Added to this are daily deluges. I am trying to have an organic garden.
    One other poit. Seeds. Since June it has been impossible to purchase seeds. The “old” seeds which I saved and planted did not grow, leaving me with the opinion that the seeds had been treated so that I would have to purchase new ones twice a year….(this is Florida). Can you recommend a good place to purchase my seeds.

    By the way, have you tried to grow marrow. This is readily availble in England. It is like a large zucchini, but it has a yellow center and when boiled it is buttery and superb.

    Edna Poole.

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