Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Controlling Looper Caterpillars in your Garden

My dad has had a beating lately with some carcinomas removed and then he picked up a nasty gastro virus in hospital that knocked him, and then his wife, for six. It's times like this I wish we lived a little closer.

Anyway throughout all that drama he also sent me the following blog post on how to control Looper Caterpillars in your garden. Those little green pests that have me singing Inch Worm when I spot them (and just before my chickens get a snack!)

So it's over to my lovely, clever dad, Mike.

How to control Looper Caterpillars
Looper Caterpillar - photo credit Lee Ruth

When I worked for a major agricultural chemical company ten years ago, the company ran a world-wide competition for its staff to invent new trade names for future products.  I devised 500 names of which four were selected for use.

One name, not selected, was Toobrix which was included as a joke based on the old adage that the easiest way to kill a cockroach was to squash it between two bricks.

The point of this story is to emphasise that insect pest control in the home garden can be done quite effectively by closely watching your plants and squashing or removing the culprits doing damage.

Most often no nasty chemicals are needed!

How to control Looper Caterpillars in your garden
Photo credit

At the moment (spring in Australia), herbs in pots or small beds are being eaten by looper caterpillars and a lot of leaf can disappear overnight.  Particularly vulnerable are parsley, mint, thyme and basil; but any leafy plant can be attacked.

So, as soon as you have time, put on your reading glasses, if required, and turn back the leaves and stems of your herbs.  First thing to notice is stems without leaves.  Under remaining leaves and down the stems you should find the caterpillars which will be the same colour as the plant – a smooth translucent green.  On parsley they will align themselves with the stem to become camouflaged.

Apart from missing leaves, or holes in leaves as on basil, another sign of the presence of these caterpillars is small black droppings.  The looper caterpillars are called such because they move with a looping action, moving their back feet to the front feet causing a loop, then extending forward with their front feet.  They start off quite small and grow to about 3 cm in length.
Once you have seen one, pick it off with your fingers (they are not harmful) and squash it or feed it to your chooks.  Keep looking because the chances are there will be more.  This procedure should be repeated daily.  There are also insecticide sprays which are effective against loopers – ask at your garden store.

Thanks Dad! 

 Also thanks to Lee Ruth for the beautiful photo of the looper caterpillar. I wrote to Lee to ask permission to use the photograph and we had a little email exchange about the usefulness of insects in your garden. Lee said "Hopefully, you will mention (in your blog about garden pests), that many (if not most) insects are beneficial. The indiscriminate use of pesticides is not recommended nor useful."
I could not agree more!

See more of Lee Ruth's images (almost 900 of them) posted at Most are of insects and/or common wildlife Lee has found on 25 acres of Northeast Texas mixed woodlands.

Read the other posts my dad has written

How to control scale on citrus trees

Growing a vegetable and herb garden in awkward spaces

1 comment:

  1. I just ordered some Neem oil, to be diluted and sprayed on my Bougainvillea to control these. It's supposed to be non-toxic at one teaspoon per gal of water and some dish-washing liquid. ;)


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