Caterpillars – friend or foe?

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The Scarboro Garden Scene

Caterpillars – friend or foe?

Caterpillars can be beautiful, but they are both friend and foe: friend because they evolve into butterflies and moths, things of beauty, and precious to us as pollinators - foe because they live from the plant leaves. The problem I sometimes face is how to deal with too many caterpillars, which will inevitably lead to plant destruction... if only I could get them to start their lives in my neighbours’ yards before flying around! Not infrequently are we faced with getting the balance right. Usually well camouflaged caterpillars will devour the leaves of my gooseberry, and they do often seem to hatch and grow overnight and the important leaves (and probably gooseberries too) disappear before I can find the little varmints and use the reliable finger and thumb method to kill them.

I felt proud to have killed most of the red lily beetle on my Asiatic lilies, only to find the more damaging larvae busy chomping away at the undersides of the lily leaves – the attached photo shows a larva with its covering of its own faeces – when small it looks like a small collection of particles of soil. Most of the damage seems to be on the lower leaves and one can see holes left as a reminder of their appetite. Yes, I know they adults are very attractive visually, but I really want to appreciate the lilies later on in the summer.

Looking hard at various plants I see mildew is covering some of the leaves and stems of a new “Oscar Peterson” rose: time for treatment, including fertiliser to make the rose more able to withstand the fungus. I must get out there and do some maintenance on my garden, including redistributing over-enthusiastic plants, and of course the usual weeding of lawns and borders, before settling down to a more relaxed summer state!

Glynn Wright.

Word count = 307, June 19, 2016

File: vol 6, # 7 .docx