Caterpillars come with butterflies and moths.
Caterpillars are chomping away out there! Black Swallowtail caterpillars cover the fennel at the Travis County Extension demonstration garden.
Caterpillars are the larvae of moths and butterflies. As with many insects, the adult butterfly lays her eggs directly onto the preferred food source for her young, so that once they hatch, they can immediately start feeding.
As is also common among insect larvae, caterpillars go through several growth stages, called instars, changing slightly in appearance each time they reach a new stage of growth. Because of this trait, young larvae may appear quite different from mature larvae, such as with our black swallowtail caterpillars. When young, the worms are mostly black, with just a hint of orange in the nodules along their back, and a small but distinct splash of white on their midsection.
You’ll also find Black Swallowtails on your parsley and other butterfly larvae on citrus, passion vine and countless other plants and trees. If you apply pesticides, you’ll destroy the butterflies you want in your garden.
But sometimes, it may be necessary to combat heavy infestations of caterpillars on certain plants. Genista broom moth larvae can decimate the leaves and new growth on our beloved Texas mountain laurels, including every last bit of plant tissue destined to become next year’s flowers. John Shearer and Randy Sabbagh hand-pick the caterpillars from their Texas mountain laurels, and apply Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to control an infestation of these pests before they get out of control. Bt is an organic substance, only harmful to caterpillars, making it a great choice for gardeners.
We want the butterflies but not leaf-footed or stink bugs on our tomatoes and other plants! Make a habit of looking not just on top, but also on the undersides of leaves for clusters of eggs or nymphs, and destroy them when you find them.
Last year, Sharon Henderson discovered some strange eggs on the top of her blackberry leaves. With this odd, red swirling pattern, this one was a bit difficult for us to pinpoint. These are the eggs of a leaffooted bug known as spot-sided coreid. But be careful not to wipe out beneficial insect eggs—like those of ladybugs! If you aren’t sure what you have, snap a picture and get help identifying it.
Many viewers, including Chris Hazard, are finding these one-inch creatures all over exterior walls. These are millipedes. Wizzie Brown says they’re simply trying to get out of saturated soil. No reason to do anything about them.
And if you have passion vines in your garden, you’ll soon be seeing Gulf Frittilary caterpillars. Claire Lee and Scott Miller shared a lovely photo of their first Passiflora caerulea flower. They just planted it last fall and are seeing lots of buds already! Butterflies and bees will nectar on the flowers.