Thursday, 19 July 2012

Yikes, caterpillars - help needed!!

Some flowers in our gardens go on flowering for a long time, like many roses for example. Other plants flower just for a short time and then it’s a whole year till next time. I have been eagerly waiting for my lovely Crocosmia 'Lucifer' to flower, a large clump that produces very tall spikes of absolutely stunning bright red flowers. The clump is so big now that I have been thinking of dividing it, if I only knew where to put a second group of crocosmias – I absolutely love these flowers, but I don’t really have room for more in my garden.

Here is a photo of the crocosmias last year, in full flower in late June. The flowering season lasts for a good 4 weeks and then it’s all over, months of fading, then dying green leaves and then a whole year to wait for flowers again. This year the crocosmias have been very late getting into buds, thanks to all the rain, the cold weather and lack of sun. But I finally got buds and they started opening up last week.

But no sooner did the flowers open, and then they just disappeared!

More and more flowers opened, and just vanished before I could even enjoy them.

After about a week most of the flowers and buds are now completely gone, as if the flowering season is over, and I haven’t even been able to enjoy the flowers!

As you probably have guessed from the title of this post, I have had some uninvited guests in my garden. I am far from an expert when it comes to creepy-crawlers, in fact – I try to stay as far away from them as I can! I have had to educate myself about certain pests like greenflies, black flies, scales and red lily beetles and how to get rid of them, and I don’t mind bees, butterflies and ladybirds, they can roam around as they like in my garden. But I have never had a problem with caterpillars, don’t think I have ever seen more than a one or two every year before. Now I have an invasion!

Now that the crocosmia flowers are gone the caterpillars have moved on to the dahlia flowers and the daylily flowers – and leaves, I find them everywhere. I know caterpillars are fussy eaters; that much I know. Each type only eats certain types of flowers or leaves. I have no idea what type of caterpillars I have in my garden or if these originally wanted to eat something else and are eating my flowers instead. The other thing I don’t know is if these caterpillars are going to turn into beautiful butterflies in a couple of weeks, or just become bigger, uglier caterpillars that will eat something else in my garden!

I know you invite the right kind of pest for your environment – I never had red lily beetles until I started growing lilies for example. As soon as my lilies arrived, so did the lily beetles too. I don’t know what’s different in my garden this year, I don’t have any new plants that are very different from before, but my neighbour has. My new neighbour has turned half the garden where before there were only flowers into a kind of allotment and is growing vegetables and different kind of salads, perhaps they ‘invited’ the caterpillars and now they are doing a detour into my garden for dessert? Or perhaps the unseasonal cold and wet spring and summer has made the caterpillar population explode? I have no idea, so I am turning to my readers for help!

The caterpillars are very difficult to spot, and even more difficult to pick, as they tend to drop off the leaves just when I touch them (ugh!) and fall to the ground where it is impossible to find them. They were however very easy to photograph! Never taken pictures of anything creepy-crawly in my garden that stayed still for that long!! So, dear readers: are these caterpillars going to turn into beautiful butterflies or not? What shall I do with them, before all my flowers are gone?? I would be so grateful for some answers from all you knowledgeable people out there :-) Until next time, take care.

14 comments:

  1. I would do some research to see what the caterpillars are going to turn into. You could even take one to a local garden center. Or at least take a picture. They should be able to help you. I actually grow certain plants just so butterflies will lay their eggs on them. Then I let the caterpillars eat the plant! The plant just grows more leaves. :o) But my caterpillars just eat the leaves and not the flowers.

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    1. Thanks for your advice, but I am not very mobile and getting to a garden centre is not possible for me anymore - I buy all my plants online these days. That's why I hoped perhaps someone would recognise my caterpillars and give me some advice here on my blog :-)

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    2. Here's a website to try:
      http://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/species_family.php?name=all&stage=larva

      Perhaps if you emailed them a picture of your caterpillars they would be able to identify them for you. :o)

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    3. Thanks for the link, I have actually been to their website and looked at the photos, but didn't think of sending them an email. I must have looked at well over hundred photos of caterpillars on the Internet by now, without finding something that looks exactly like mine, although many looks similar. I have sent them an email now, hope they respond, quickly :-)

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  2. If you don't have a good insect book now is the time to buy one (or three). I'd offer you a suggestion but I am in Canada and the bugs are probably not all the same. Sorry about those lovely crocosmia.

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    1. I have used the Internet instead, but it's not easy, many of them looks so similar, but when you start to compare finer details - none look exactly like mine!

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  3. Yikes! Your poor blooms! I wish I could help you with an ID, but I'm not great at identifying our caterpillars, much less ones over there. I hope you figure out what it is, and that you at least get some pretty butterflies for all your damage!

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    1. I wish, but I am afraid I will just end up with brown moths...

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  4. Darn those caterpillars! I'm not an expert on the creepy-crawly creatures, either. I hope the sun will discourage them a little bit for you. Good luck with the ID, and please keep us posted!

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    1. I'm putting my hope in getting a reply to my email, will post here if and when I hear anything from them :-)

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  5. Hi, Helen! I'm Nadezda, I'm here over Astrid Garden blog. I liked your garden, all is so clean and in order! About this insect. I can advice you, if you grow tomatoes, to put their leaves in a bucket and pour some water. the "stock" will smell badly, but works perfectly.

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    1. I have heard of tomato leaf water for aphids, not sure if it will work for caterpillars, but in any case – I don’t grow tomatoes! But thanks for your tip.

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  6. Oh, dear! Did you figure out what the caterpillars are? When I looked at your video and saw your other photos, I wondered if those were crocosmias. I had a clump for a few years, but one spring, they didn't come back.

    I came back here to tell you I have been enjoying the stories our NBC has been doing on places in London. They showed some markets just now. I love all the overhead shots of London they show, too. I don't imagine I'll ever go there, so I feel like I'm traveling a bit right from my couch.

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    1. I think I had what’s called cutworms here in Britain, caterpillars that develop into brown moths. I never got a response to my emails to the experts so I decided to spray all my affected plants with bug spray. If it is done in late evening it doesn’t harm bees and other pollinating insects. It was a last resort and it worked, my plants and I am happy again!

      As for travelling from your couch, as a disabled and house bound that’s what I have been doing for years, I live my life through my TV and my computer and I visit new places every day! East London looks great now after all the sprucing up for the Olympics, it was the poor and deprived end of London before and now it is about to become the new, up and coming area.

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