The Q&A Archives: Caterpillar Problems

Question: I have a passion vine (P. alatocaerulea) and it is being eaten by caterpillars, I think they are caterpillars from the Monarch butterfly. What is the best way to control them?

Answer: As you know, caterpillars usually turn into beautiful butterflies (although some become moths, but they have their purpose, too!) Caterpillars can be extremely destructive in terms of their feeding habits, but they feed for only a short time before they stop and spin a cocoon. If you can put up with the damage, you'll be doing the butterflies a real favor. Healthy plants can overcome attacks from feeding insects, and are sometimes better off because they've been pruned, which signals the plant to put out even more growth. I hope you will put up with the invasion rather than use a chemical treatment. If you really need to control the caterpillars, a biocontrol is Bt (Bacillius Thuringiensis), a bacterium that acts as a stomach poison. Caterpillars will continue to feed until they've ingested enough to kill them. Considering the time it takes for Bt to affect the caterpillars, I hope you'll opt to let them live!

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