How to control caterpillars within the garden

There is a saying that goes; if you build it, they will come. In the case of your vegetable garden, if you plant, it they will come, unwelcomed of course. They are caterpillars, the larvae of moths and butterflies. There are several different types of caterpillars and there are just as many ways to prevent or get rid of them from your garden. Caterpillars can cause major damage to fall vegetables, particularly kale, cabbage, broccoli, collards and cauliflower. Some species of caterpillars are known to kill seedlings and young plants if left untreated, but most species just enjoy munching on the leaves or fruits. If they are detected early it can be easy to control caterpillar infestations.

For caterpillars to infest your garden, first, a moth or butterfly must fly in and lay their eggs on the plants. The eggs may be laid in clusters or singly. A few days later tiny caterpillars will emerge and immediately begin to feed on the leaves. Then they will progressively grow larger and may change color. Most caterpillars feed for two to three weeks, before entering a cocoon. How long they remain in the cocoon is dependent on the type of caterpillar. It is very easy to detect a caterpillar infestation since they leave rugged holes in the plants, evidence of their feeding activity. If you notice holes in your crops then check both sides of the leaves for caterpillars.

To control a caterpillar invasion on your crops, lets start with some preventative measures. There is the option of covering crops with insect barriers. These special fabrics form a barrier, preventing moths and butterflies from landing on the plants and laying their eggs. If possible you could build a frame and place the fabric over the seedlings though a frame wouldn’t be necessary. The fabric is soft and flexible enough to be placed over the plants and, it allows adequate sunlight to pass through. Since most fall veggies are grown for  their leaves, and roots don’t require pollination covering the plants will not reduce yields.

Spraying infested crops with an appropriate insect control product that contains organic and synthetic active ingredients such as pyrethrin, is another way to control caterpillars in your garden. These products are available at gardening centers. Pay attention to the pre harvest interval before applying any pesticides to your crops. This interval is the number of days you’ll have to wait, from the time you spray to the time you harvest. Intervals vary for different pesticide from 0 to 21 days or more. And, if you intend to use it on edible plants make sure it is safe for use on vegetables.

Hand pick them it is quite common for some gardeners to pick the caterpillar out of their garden, but this can be time consuming but each caterpillar pick out means one less moth or butterfly that will later lay eggs. Be careful when picking up caterpillars, some species have spines on their bodies that packs a nasty sting. Take a small bucket with you and put the caterpillars in and feed them as a treat to your pets. Or you could kill them by dropping them in some soapy water if squishing them is not your cup of tea.

Organic pesticides you could use bacillus thuringiensis, this is a naturally occurring bacteria that can be place in the garden. This bacteria is nontoxic to humans but lethal to caterpillars.

Pyrethrin is another organic pesticide that is extracted from the flower of the chrysanthemum, (not the common type grown in fall) pyrethrin will effectively control caterpillar infestation.

Neem oil is derived from the seed of the neem tree, a native of southern Asia. This organic oil can be spray on plants to control caterpillar infestation.



What are Bird Mites

In the high stakes game of sucking the living life out of your local poultry population (not to mention creeping the hell out of you), Bird mites take top spot. These ferocious insects not only like to snack on the blood of birds, but also use the nest of birds and other poultry as breeding grounds. Bird mites can cause the well-being of poultry to plummet, and can also have a negative effect on humans nearby. Mites can also cause skin irritation in humans and birds. But, there is an upside to all of this: cut off their food source and the mites can die off in a matter of days. Bird mites inhabit the nests and roosts of birds and poultry, and can also live in houses that have birds as household pets. The life cycle of the bird mite occurs in four stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult.

You can find them here…

In North America

The two main species found in North America are the Northern Fowl Mite and the D. Gallinae. Commonly found in the tropical parts of the world the Tropical Fowl Mite is another species of bird mites. Bird mites favor humid conditions. Their breeding mostly occurs during springtime or early in the summer. In case these pests infest your home the warm folds of your furniture or bedding material is their ideal breeding site.

Since bird mites prefer humid climates certain states tend to experience more bird mite infestation than others. If you are living in California or Florida you will have more bird mite activity than say Arizona, which is dry and hot. In the case that your home is excessively moist then dehumidifiers and air conditioners can help remove the excess moisture. In essence, no matter where you are in the world bird mites can infest your home.

Recognizing Bird Mites

But what do bird mites look like? They have an ovoid shaped body that is covered with short hairs. They have eight legs, are very small and semi-transparent. As a result, a bird mite infestation may go unseen for quite a while. While in the nymph stage bird mites only have three pairs of legs. In order to pierce through their host’s skin to drink their fill of blood, a bird mite’s mouth is long and sharp. Though these pests are semi-transparent they become reddish or blackish after a hearty meal.

These pests are very small in size. A Northern Fowl Mite in the mature stage is no bigger than half of a millimeter. The D. Gallinae though normally comes in at around .4 millimeter in length. The front legs and mouthpart take up one-third of the total length of the mite, leaving the remaining two-thirds to the main body of the mite. D. Gallinae is lighter than the Northern Fowl mite, making it the harder of the two to see. The nymphs are not as fully developed as the adult mites and are thus also harder to see than the adults and are not readily seen unless magnified under a lens.

Significant Attributes

An invasion of mites can expand exponentially, and the eggs of some species release their payloads in around three days and reach maturity over the course of the following five days. They also stick to a singular host for their entire lives, but will jump to a new blood sponsor if their primary host expires. Blood is a necessary ingredient for reproduction, and the mites may only last a few days without a meal. Roughly 95% of the bird mite population is comprised of female bird mites.

The hosts of the northern fowl mites get little if any reprieve, though, as they spend most of their lives on their hosts. Bird mites not only attack birds and poultry but have been known to assault field mice, rats, gerbils and other rodents. This is bad news, these rodents can easily access your home and bring their bird mite pests with them. An increase in humidity sometimes correlates with an increase in the bird mite population.

Measures to Prevent or Eradicate Bird Mites

Bird nesting sites should be moved or expelled as a key step in their eradication. Governmental and state regulatory guidelines must always be observed if rare or endangered poultry are involved. When an infected nest is found, nearby nesting sites should also be examined for bird mite infestation.

Treat and examine poultry habitats bi-annually. A detailed analysis should preferably be done in the summer and spring, as these times are ideal for bird mite breeding.

Using Chemicals vs. Using Electrical Tools

A professional pest control specialist will always offer the best results. If mites are observed on a pet, a veterinarian should be consulted for treatment. If an infestation has been observed in a household residence or anywhere on or near your property, the professional counsel that a bird mite specialist can provide will prove invaluable in eradicating them from your life with lasting effect.