The Q&A Archives: Caterpillars on Columbine

Question: Each year, just before my columbine starts to bloom it becomes covered with little green caterpillars. They are on the underside of the leaves and can strip the plant in no time at all. What can I use to get rid of them and not hurt the plant itself?

Answer: This sounds like the work of a butterfly called the columbine duskywing, a small "skipper" type of butterfly that lays eggs on your choice plants. If you catch them early, handpicking caterpillars is an easy and effective control. Look under leaves and all around the plant. If the caterpillars are out of control, you can use Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). It is a biological control -- a bacteria that kills only caterpillars and is safe to other insects, humans and animals. (Use it sparingly, though; it will kill all moth and butterfly larvae.)

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