The Q&A Archives: Bouganvillea Pests

Question: My bougainvillea vine is being eaten by something. I have not found anything on it but the leaves are being eaten as described by the Japanese Beetle infestation. Any suggestions beyond spraying...and if so what should I use?

Answer: To my knowledge, Japanese Beetles do not attack bougainvilleas. However, there is a very common pest, and they are hard to detect. The bougainvillea looper is a green or brown caterpillar about 1 inch long. It is also called ?inchworm? or ?measuring worm? because it moves in alternate contractions and expansions suggestive of measuring. The looper larva mimics stems and branches very well and feeds primarily at night, which is why you may see the damage but fail to find the culprit on the plant. The adult is a moth, a very fast flyer with a wing-span of about 1 inch. The moth does not feed on the foliage. Like the larva, it also is active at night, when it is believed to lay its eggs on the underside of bougainvillea leaves. The bougainvillea looper feeds from the edges of the leaves, which results in severe scalloping of the foliage. Attacks begin on the young, tender shoots and leaves before progressing down the stem. The loopers may move down the stems during the night and take shelter on the larger interior branches during the day. As the population multiplies, entire shrubs can be defoliated.

Inspect your plant very carefully. If you find loopers, you can control them with Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensis), sold as Dipel. Be sure to follow label directions.

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