Monday, April 11, 2011

Natural Pest Control

While walking around the garden the other morning, I noticed that the bed of pentas I have planted just outside the screen of the back porch had been chewed to the stems.  These pentas came through the winter very well and were already blooming.  Not anymore.  There were four of these cartoonish looking caterpillars chomping away on the pentas in this bed. 

These are the caterpillars for the Tersa Sphinx Moth (Xylophanes tersa).  It's one of the hummingbird type moths that come out around dusk to nectar on its favorite flowers, pentas.  After starting out bright green, they turn a drab brown color before burrowing into the leaf litter and pupating.  Now, I have learned that pentas are the host plant for this particular moth.  I am letting these particular cats go through their life-cycle unhindered by me.  I'm really hoping that this won't be a constant occurrence.  If it seems to be, I will plant some pentas around the side of the house and use it as a "caterpillar relocation center."

I have to say that I think these are really the most interesting caterpillars I've ever seen and the grandkids think they're great.  So, for now, we are enjoying them. 

Uh-oh.  We aren't the only ones enjoying them.  Perhaps they will be easier to control than I first thought. 


  1. The cycle of exciting. I did not know that pentas were a host plant to this moth. Cool!

  2. Those are great cat pictures, and then seeing the early redbird getting his 'worm'.

    Happy Gardening ~ FlowerLady

  3. Uh-Oh. They are SO big they can eat all the leaves quickly. I haven't seen any of these on my pentas YET this year. BUT last year! Yes. I let a couple of them live but took out a couple by picking and squishing. I have thought about picking them off and putting them NEAR the bird feeders... just to help nature out a bit. :-)

  4. How neat that you caught the cardinal dining on your cats. I didn't realize these cats feast on pentas. I've seen them hovering around plants drinking nectar but have only seen lubbers feasting on my pentas.

  5. Wow!Great pictures!I haven't had that "problem" so far,this year.Just lubber babies....en masse!

  6. I had a huge sphinx moth caterpillar on my chaste tree last year and it was so beautiful (its camouflage made it look just like a leaf) I decided to see how much damage it would do before squishing it. The chaste tree actually made it through with minimal damage and the leaves grew right back, AND I was treated to the delightful sight of hummingbird sphnix moths sipping nectar at dusk from my butterlfy garden a little later. I agree with you that these caterpillars are fascinating! I too will watch for them again this year and hope they don't ravage the chaste tree (and my pentas) too badly.

  7. Hi NanaK. Great to see your beautiful photos. Yeeow, that is some scary looking cat, however I love the name-Tersa Sphinx!

    I finally decided where to plant those gorgeous coleus we bought with Meems. They are so gorgeous. That was a fun day.

    Blessings, Sherry

  8. Awesome photos, NanaK! Yay for birds! I wish they would eat those awful lubbers!

  9. Oh dear...I have to say that I didn't really see that coming! Well,everyone has to eat, right? Afterall, I went fishing yesterday and ate a delicious dinner!

  10. Darla - I didn't know that pentas hosted any caterpillars until now, either. I have had pentas for many years and thought they were fairly bullet-proof. Oh well. They are coming back quickly though.

    FlowerLady - I was pretty happy to see that cardinal!

    Meems - Yeah, after this first "cycle" I might have to get tough.

    Susan - My first thought upon seeing the pentas eaten to nubs was "lubbers!" But then I realized there was too much damage for the baby lubbers to have done and that's when I saw the caterpillars. There's always something to watch for in the garden, isn't there?

    ChrisC - I go out every morning to kill those lubber babies. I'm getting pretty heartless and can even squish without my gloves!

    Nanette O'Hara - Oh, I would be really watchful if these guys were on a chaste tree. That is a beautiful tree. Pentas are more easily replaced!

    C.R. (Sherry) - Oh yeah, those coleus are really brightening up my shady garden. I am happy to see them putting out new leaves. So far the wormwood you talked me into:) is doing pretty good in the dappled shade too.

    Floridagirl - Wouldn't it be nice if the birds would eat the lubbers? At least the babies! But, I've never seen such a thing. I have put out a product called Nolo Bait that is supposed to take care of the egg-laying abilities of this generation. So, unfortunately, I won't be able to tell if it really works until next spring. But I'm sure hoping.

    Kimberly - I know, it's kinda' hard to watch but I'm really glad there is a predator to keep these in control. Unlike the lubbers which we Florida gardeners are talking about endlessly these days.

  11. Wow...great pics of the caterpillars! I have not seen them before, except in books.

    Keeping my fingers crossed. Haven't spotted any lubbers yet.

  12. Hi Nanak,

    This blog is really interesting. Natural pest control is less expensive than buying and applying pesticides, and it's safer for your garden, your family, the natural wildlife and the environment.

  13. Using natural pest and disease control is often cheaper than applying chemical pesticides because
    natural methods do not involve buying materials from outside.

  14. Natural pest control is less expensive than buying and applying pesticides, and it's safer for your garden, your family, the natural wildlife and the environment.

  15. The grape farmers in Greece have an ingenious solution for flying bugs. They hang plastic bags filled with water on top of the crops. The flying bugs see their distorted reflection on the bags, and they get scared away. It's simple and novel, but very effective.


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