Controlling the Headache – Caterpillars and Slugs
Pests, diseases, and fungi are more than mere annoyances, they’re grave threats to growers’ livelihoods. Along with the many factors that go into growing a high quality, productive crop, one must constantly keep tabs on potential infestations and the onset of disease. Otherwise… well, we don’t want to go down that road. With that in mind, we’ve decided to continue detailing various plant threats, along with ways to combat and hopefully eradicate the problem before it wipes out or severely debilitates your plants.
As any experienced grower knows, there are sometimes too many plant pests to keep up with. They can differ depending on whether your garden is indoors or outside with Mother Nature. Mostly a problem for outdoor gardens, snails, slugs, and caterpillars are slow-moving, yet sneaky creatures that, if left to their own devices, will devour leaves, vegetation, and root systems. So, it’s best to stop them in their tracks, which can be achieved through preventative practices, predators, and sprays.
Snails and Slugs
These slimy, slow, soft-bodied blobs do most of their feeding at night and leave behind evidence in the form of silvery trails, known as snail trails. Always on a hunt for food, snails and slugs nibble holes in leaves and eat nearly any vegetation including roots. They are especially fond of new growth. Because they’re not the brightest of creatures, deterring them from your garden doesn’t take too much effort.
One of the simplest methods is blocking their paths create an impenetrable perimeter around the garden or individual plants. Because snails and slugs thrive in warm, damp environments, it’s best practice to create a dry perimeter that impedes their progress. You can do this with beach sand — the saltier, the better — lime, or diatomaceous earth. You can also pick them off at night or trap them by placing a board on one-inch feet, which serves as a shelter for the creatures. Check beneath the board every few days and clear the area of any pests that took refuge.
If you decide to take the bait approach, be sure to properly set up a slug hotel to keep any harmful ingredients (such as metaldahyde) from reaching the soil and the bait dry while also out of reach from children and other small critters. And, if taking the natural bait route (i.e. a snail/slug party), leave dishes of beer (old metal pie pans or saucers work) near the snail trails overnight and wake up to find fully saturated, dead pests. Other eradication approaches include the predatory decollate snails and alternative sprays.
While some eventually grow into beautiful butterflies, their in-between stage can be a nuisance when they attack plants. They also leave behind feces, which is not a very appetizing addition to your prized plants. While they are most often green, they can come in other colors. Caterpillars have numerous sets of feet along the length of their bodies and love munching upon leaves and foliage, potentially killing plants. It’s best to remove them by hand or with predatory bugs like Trichogramma wasps (aka stingless wasps) and Podisus maculiventris (aka soldier bug). Using homemade sprays containing bacillus thuringiensis bacteria, pyrethrum and rotenone, along with garlic and hot pepper are also fine alternatives.
Another preventative measure for the hungry caterpillar is being aware of any large trees or foliage above or near your plants. They serve as havens for these and other creatures, which can easily drop onto your garden and become problematic.
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About the Author
EZ-CLONE Enterprises Inc. was established in 2000 by Billy Blackburn and Brad Mickelsen. Pioneering the “Cloning Machine Niche”, EZ-CLONE has become the Industry Leader, winning growers’ praise and multiple industry accolades, including “Best Aeroponic Cloning Machine” and “Best New Horticulture Product”.