The Q&A Archives: Problems with insects in my Trailing Petunia's

Question: This is now my third year with having Trailing Petunia's for hanging plants on my proch. Every year they start off great! They are very healthy, constant rebudding, I care for them every day. No matter what I do every year I end up with aphids and some sort of caterpillars that start off real small, no longer than say a quarter of an inch and very narrow in width and within weeks they are 1-2 inches long and 1/8 of and inch thick. On the first year I had it I didnt realize the problem until the plant was beyond help, so the second year I was watchful for it and sure enough around this time (July)I see the aphids and caterpillars, I went to Home Depot and tried all they told me to do and nothing, they didn't make it. So this year thinking I might be getting the insects from the nursery I purchase the plant I grew them from seeds to plant this year and low and behold its now July and I have them back. Tried all the pesticides and nothing. Please tell me what I am doing wrong and how can I correct this problem. I use these plants for the hummingbirds in my area, they seem to respond to these plants. If this is going to be an on going thing that cant be stopped do you by any chance have a suggestion for another heartier plant for hummingbirds. I would ,like to all that I can for the petunia's, they are very colorful and pretty.
Thank you for any and all help you may be able to give me. I look forward to trying anything to help my cause.

Thank you

Answer: One of the most common pests of petunias is the budworm caterpillar. These small green worms appear in late June and July. You won't often see the worm itself. Instead, you'll see the droppings, which often are described as small black seeds. The worms feed on the flower buds, making small holes in the buds and the leaves.

These caterpillars are difficult to control but Bacillus thuringensis (B.T.) and Bifenthrin are reasonably effective insecticides. If left unchecked, the presence of the caterpillars will cause petunias to stop blooming.

You have the timing just right - start treating your plants in late June and you should be able to get ahead of the worms. As for the aphids, they're interested in the plants because of the sticky fluid that the plants are exuding after being attacked by the budworms. If you can get the budworms under control, the aphids won't be quite so interested in your petunias.

Better luck next year!

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