Saturday, November 14, 2009

Edible Balcony Update - Gotcha!

Practising organic pest control has its frustrations.Rather than relying on toxic powders and chemical sprays to do the hard work for you, you have to rely on your cunning and Sherlock Holmes powers of deduction. And when you're up against tomato caterpillars you can come close to tears.
These wiley nematodes could teach Osama Bin Laden a thing or two about disguise and camouflage.
I've caught and squished about ten or eleven since they were laid as eggs in both my tomato bushes about six weeks ago. But some still eluded me. How did I know? Well, there were fresh holes in some of the back leaves and a mysterious trail of black droppings which I later realised were caterpillar castings! I followed the poo trail and two frustrating hours later... 'gotcha!' - two drunken caterpillars gorging Club Med-style on a feast of juicy leaves. Party's over boys.
caterpillar poo trail

The Perfect camouflage: no wonder I couldn't find them

how fat are they?

Hasta La Vista Baby!


  1. OMG! look at the size of those monsters!! I killed 4 yesterday that nearly demolished my basil over the course of one night but they were tiny in comparison to those two! I've stepped up my 'caterpillar watch' to twice a day now...I think they're sending in the back-up troops on a search and destroy mission.
    What do the eggs look like? Maybe I need to do some prevention as well as intervention.
    On another note, Indira (the curry leaft tree) got a new home last night and she's looking pretty snazzy in a tall glazed red pot! Pics on my website.

  2. Yikes!! I've been having the same problem. I've been starting up my mini garden, and unfortunately they have been going at my mint leaves! I've been wondering what the black castings were ....

    I feel for you too .. but I'm not sure how to get rid of them generally? I'll need to google for a remedy, I think :/

  3. That's a spooky co-incidence - I found our first one on the tomatoes on Thursday!... well actually one of my 4 year olds did!

    try this:
    Add two tablespoons of soap flakes to one litre of water and stir thoroughly until completely dissolved (this is quicker in warm water). There is no need to dilute this further, just spray it on as is.

    This was on gardening Australia a while back with a whole lot of other natural gardening remedies for pest control, I posted about it in my blog here:

  4. Cheeky little'd he get all the way up there???

  5. hi suziwong66,
    yes the Great Caterpillar Expose fairly left me exhausted and slightly grossed out. I am going to do some more research on other natural pest controls. I can't spend all my time hunting down insects - too much good food to eat! Indira

    Hi Jo-Ann,
    you and me both. must be some better solutions out there. RE: liss's post underneath yours
    ! Indira

    Hi Liss,
    thanks so much for the link. Will try soap flakes out. Indira

  6. Hi girls,

    I've read somewhere that there is nothing better than using blended caterpillar as their own repellent. The thought of actually blending caterpillar in any of my appliances give me the heebie jeebies. I'll try the soap remedy. The soap remedy is actually really good to get rid of green aphids which have seemed to be everywhere!

    The caterpillars seem to have flown and landed on my spinach, and I was wondering what that trail of poo was as well amongst the holes. It is amazing these little suckers can avoid their own poo trail and eat around it...

    Digressing a little, here is a BBC documentary on aphid reproduction. Definitely way too interesting to be creepy.

  7. Hi Jo-Ann,
    I've heard that as well but couldn't bring myself to mash them up and all that oozy green goo! And thanks for the link to the BBC aphid doco. Fascinating camera work. No wonder aphids multiply so rapidly. Cunning creatures. Indira