What are those Caterpillars on the Parsley?

Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar 1 Black Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar 2

These beautiful caterpillars are sometimes mistaken for the Monarch variety, but in fact they will become Black Swallowtail butterflies. Of course, that’s after they consume all the leaves off your parsley, dill, or fennel plants. (The lower photo is the same caterpillar after I touched it. The two orange tentacles pop out of their head when you do that.)

eastern black swallowtail butterfly courtesy IFas - Donald Hall of U of F

I was willing to sacrifice our potted parsley plant for the good of these little guys. After all, they will turn into striking butterflies that pollinate plants and watching the tentacles pop out of their head several times was pretty entertaining. If you’re willing to sacrifice your parsley plant, I have good news….it can regenerate. Here’s a photo of ours making a surprising comeback a couple days after the caterpillars disappeared.

Parsley coming back

To save the foliage on your plant, just remove the caterpillars. No need to spray anything. Since they only consume parsley, fennel, Queen Anne’s lace and dill, they will die without these food sources. Another option is to give them their own food source, perhaps a second plant or fresh herbs from the grocery store placed in a narrow container of water. A narrow container prevents the caterpillars from falling into the water and drowning.

As garden pests go, these are good ones. Providing a food source for butterfly caterpillars, other than the plants you want to eat, is a win-win for insect, human and the environment alike.

Great Bug Book

Good Bug Bad Bug BetterGood Bug Bad Bug Inside

I love this bug book entitled simply Good Bug Bad Bug by Jessica Walliser. Each pest or beneficial bug is pictured along with a description, explanation of damage, list of susceptible plants, live biological control options (good bugs that eat the pest bug), preventative actions and organic product controls. (click the pictures to enlarge)

The spiral binding allows the book to stay open to the page you’re reading. If you can’t find it locally, you can pick up a copy from Amazon, Good Bug Bad Bug on Amazon. Enjoy!

Sticky Trap Garden Pest Control

Sticky trapI mentioned sticky traps in the previous post, so I thought I’d give you a bit more detail on this product. Controlling flying garden pests can be enhanced via sticky traps as shown in the above photo from our garden. Although these traps are definitely not attractive, they obvious do their job.  Non-poisonous and weatherproof, sticky traps attract a broad spectrum of flying insects including: aphids, whiteflies, thrips, leafhoppers, leaf miners, and moths. This inexpensive product comes with a wire twist to easily hang on plants or branches.

If not carried by any retail stores in your area, a search on Amazon will reveal multiple suppliers.


Spinosad Stops Leaf Miners in their Tracks!

Leaf Miner

Leaf miners are hard to control since they begin their life existing within the leaf.  As an organic gardener, I’ve been searching for a natural means to effectively control this pest (when the sticky traps just aren’t enough) and have discovered a wonderful product called Bulls-Eye offered by Gardens Alive.

The active ingredient, Spinosad, is a microbial insecticide derived from a species of Actinomycetes bacteria; Saccharopolyspora spinosa, discovered in soil samples. It is a fermented product, much like the more familiar Bacillus thuringiensis, but lasts longer than B.t. It will move through the leaf cuticle to reach leaf miner larvae and provide a full week of protection for most pests listed on the label. Spinosad is both a nerve poison and a stomach poison, so it kills pests that it contacts and those that consume it on the foliage they eat. It does have a negative effect on bees before it dries, so take care to spray in the early evening after the bees have returned to their hives.

Spinosad will not persist in the environment. It’s classified as an organic substance by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) and OMRI listed for use in organic production. You’ll also find this ingredient used in pill form as a more natural means to control fleas on dogs.