Ask a Question forum: Blueberry bush infested by hairy horned caterpillars

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Dallas, TX (Zone 8a)
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seedtotree
Sep 19, 2017 12:40 PM CST
My blueberry plant after planting into the ground in March started showing the brown spots on its leaves. I had sprayed it with organic insecticide/ fungicide spray that time and pruned the plant to allow good air circulation. Nothing really changed. The new growth also started getting affected. I didn't notice any insects at that time. Suddenly today I saw these weird caterpillars on its leaves. At first they look like dried leaves but they are very ugly caterpillars. Also, the leaves had many brown eggs scattered throughout the leaves.
I have removed all the leaves of the plant and did massive pruning. Then I washed the plant with jet spray and sprayed it with spray.
Does anyone know what creatures are these? And can the plant be saved? Or do I have to remove the plant completely to prevent other plants from getting infected?


Thumb of 2017-09-19/seedtotree/ab83fc
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Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Seed Starter Vegetable Grower
Greenhouse Region: United States of America Region: Michigan Enjoys or suffers cold winters Butterflies Birds
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Weedwhacker
Sep 19, 2017 1:32 PM CST
Welcome to NGA, @seedtotree .

Did you literally "remove all the leaves of the plant" ?

At any rate, I would just spray the plant(s) with Bt for the caterpillars. Smiling
“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight." ~ Albert Schweitzer /
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Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Sep 19, 2017 2:34 PM CST
I agree It really doesn't help to remove the leaves to get rid of caterpillars. Bt is an organic solution that is safe to use on edible plants. You spray the leaves, then when the caterpillar eats a bit of the leaf that's been sprayed it gets sick and dies. Buy it as a concentrate at any garden center.

Removing the plant won't prevent the caterpillars from getting to your other plants. The 'mother' is a moth or butterfly and will lay eggs on whatever is a host plant. Obviously they like your blueberry.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Sep 19, 2017 2:59 PM CST
Welcome!

It looks like a unicorn caterpillar, Schizura unicornis. According to my caterpillar book it eats apple, beech, birch, blueberry, cherry, dogwood, elm, hawthorn, hickory, hop, hornbeam, maple, New Jersey tea, ninebark, oak, persimmon, poplar, rose, sweet pepperbush, willow, witch hazel and some other woody plants/trees. Caterpillars only eat what suits their species, a caterpillar won't move to just any other plant.

The reason caterpillars are damaging to plants is that they remove leaves or parts of leaves which means the plants can't photosynthsize (make their own food) as much. Deliberately removing the leaves does even more damage in that way than the caterpillar may have done.
Dallas, TX (Zone 8a)
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seedtotree
Sep 19, 2017 3:27 PM CST
Thank you all for the information. You must have guessed that I'm a newbie. Smiling It looks like I was hasty to remove all the leaves. However the entire plant was covered with caterpillar eggs and scary caterpillars. Even the stems are looking dotted brown with the skin peeling off. I try to avoid any synthetic products in my garden. And previously organic sprays didn't work on this plant. I wonder if the plant has any other problem in addition to these caterpillars. Let me know your views.

Sooby thank you for giving more information about this particular caterpillar. It is good to know the caterpillars don't spread on their own.
But, how do I control moths. I see quiet a few of them in the garden nowadays. :(
I'll update you all with what happens next. I would hate to lose the plant.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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sooby
Sep 19, 2017 3:37 PM CST
We'd need to identify the moths to know if they are harmful ones. There's no need to control anything that isn't doing intolerable damage.

Are you sure the brown spots you are seeing are eggs and not just caterpillar poop? Caterpillars are messy critters that way!
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Seed Starter Vegetable Grower
Greenhouse Region: United States of America Region: Michigan Enjoys or suffers cold winters Butterflies Birds
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Weedwhacker
Sep 19, 2017 5:30 PM CST
I would venture to say that most of the moths/butterflies that you are seeing are not going to harm your garden plants (actually, none of the moths/butterflies will, but sometimes their babies are a bit annoying...). You obviously care about the environment, since you avoid using synthetic products, so getting an ID on your bugs before trying to eliminate them will just be another step in that process. Smiling
“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight." ~ Albert Schweitzer /
Cubits.org - A Universe of Communities[/I] / Share your recipes: Favorite Recipes A-Z cubit
C/F temp conversion / NGA Member Map
Dallas, TX (Zone 8a)
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seedtotree
Sep 19, 2017 10:21 PM CST
I have seen a black/grey colored moth near my citrus plants and white & yellow butterflies near vegetables. Sorry can't identify the species accurately but I believe they were caterpillars of cabbage moths I keep checking the leaves and remove before they hatch. This unicorn one was new to me.
Brown thing could be poop. Not sure. But I found eggs also on other plants.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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sooby
Sep 20, 2017 5:03 AM CST
If you have pictures you can post them here on NGA for identification. There is a forum for insect and bug identification or you can post them in this Ask a Question forum. Of course if you catch the caterpillar stage actually eating a plant then you know it's a pest but even then it's not always necessary to control them - it depends how much damage they are doing.

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