Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Moths in the Perennial Bed in April!

Q. There are moths flying around in my perennial bed. Why are they there, and what can I do about them, if anything?

A. At this time of year (early spring) you definitely want to be aware of the presence of the moths and get ready to do something. The moths themselves, won't bother anything. However, they are the parents of caterpillars! Right now the moths are doing no damage. They don't eat anything. You don't really want them in your garden though, because they are looking for a mate. The next step, as we all know, is laying eggs which turn into caterpillars. THERE is the rub! The caterpillars will eat their way throughout the garden, which is not a good thing. What you need to do is break the cycle. This can be done in a few different ways. Try all of them, or some of them. The more you do, the better results you'll have.

First, do some cultivating of the ground around the plants to get rid of any debris in which the hatching eggs might be hidden. This step should have already been done, but if you get to that before some of the moths hatch out, you will destroy a fair number of them. Remember this step for next year! Also, when you remove the debris, throw it into a plastic bag and then into the garbage. You don't want to put this in your compost as you'll transplant these unwanted critters elsewhere in the garden. You should do this in the autumn as well.

When you see the caterpillars out chewing, remove as many of them as you can by hand. Put them into a jar with soapy water where they will shortly meet their maker.

Next, I would treat your soil with Bt, or Bacillus thuringiensis, which you should be able to obtain in any garden center. Follow the directions carefully for application.

Bt is like a deadly flu bug for creepy crawlers. They catch it, get sick and die. Then the Bt spreads to all the other members of the bug family creating a plague down there in the ground. It does NOT hurt the good guys. Don't even ask why or how...it's just true! Trust me!

In New England, where we have pretty cold winters, the Bt can die off during the cold times. However, some of it may last, or just put more down the next year to be sure you're covered.

I hope this has helped.



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