The Q&A Archives: Orange caterpillars on Dipladenia

Question: There are large orange and black caterpillars on my Dipladenia. Are they butterfly or moth larva? I don't want to kill butterflies but I don't want my plant eaten either. I also have lots of animals so I don't want to use anything that could be harmful to them. What should I do?

Answer: I'm not sure what caterpillar you are seeing, but I suspect it will turn out to be a butterfly rather than a moth. Your dilema is common to butterfly gardeners. Most will remove some caterpillars and allow others to remain and form butterflies. This way you can find the mid-ground between keeping your plants from being totally eaten and removing all caterpillars and thus the butterflies.

Hand picking caterpillars is certainly an option (though not for the squimish) but you have to stay at it as new caterpillars continue to appear.

Caterpillars tend to be specific in their dietary habits, attacking a very limited number of plant species. This makes them easier to keep an eye on and keep under control.

When sprays are necessary, there are several organic options that break down rapidly in the environment. However, these are a last resort and in most cases will not be needed.

Good luck with your butterflies!

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