The caterpillars that have been helping themselves to much of our fall plantings, now have an identity. Kimberly Schofield, Program Specialist-Urban IPM at our local Texas AgriLife Extension office, quickly reported back to me from this simple picture I submitted asking about our furry, hungry creature. Seems it is a variety of the salt marsh caterpillar. It becomes a white moth. For more detail, she provided this link;
The list of what they eat is as long as my arm, and included most of our fall crops;
beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, celery, corn, lettuces, onions, peas, tomatoes, and turnips.
I'm going to add, Swiss chard, broccoli and cauliflower to that list!
It is great to know that this service is available to everyone from our extension office. She even recommended the organic control method for me;
Spinosad and B.t. kurstaki - both are bacterial controls.
One is specific to Lepidoptera and the other, Spinosad, is more of a broad based insect killer so we are careful NOT to spray on anything were our honeybee friends would be working, such as open blooms. Both must be consumed by the offenders to be effective.
Our "girls" at work!
They were eating up the BT as fast as I sprayed it on new plantings. But the spinosad was also used after 3 sprayings of the BT seemed less than effective, and still we are getting severe pressure from these guys. Knowing that they also feed on the broad leafed weeds, perhaps means they are not making enough of a meal out of our crops to consume enough of either bacteria to kill them. After all, our plugs only have about 4 leaves on them when they hit the soil.
I'm holding the Brussels sprout plugs in the greenhouse for a little bit, to make sure we have had a reduction in the numbers of caterpillars and to let the plants get a little bigger before we subject them to these creatures. If they can make enough food/store enough energy in their root systems, then they will have a better chance of surviving an attack. Or, maybe they will finish their cycle....we can hope!
THE GOOD NEWS
There is still time to get in more seeds for late fall & winter; carrots, radishes, kohlrabi, turnips, beets, lettuces, cabbage, cutting (green) onions, chard, assorted mustard greens and various other cool season things, which are going to actually germinate better now that the soil temps are cooler. They don't much like the soil at 85 or higher and you'll generally get very spotty germination results in that situation. We still have about 12 hours of sunlight a day, plenty of time to get these cool season crops going in time for holding them over the winter for early spring harvesting. We're expecting a bit warmer than normal winter season with dryer than normal conditions - both not so bad compared to last year's monsoon and ongoing arctic blasts.
So, onward we go - squishing our way through fall and replanting/resowing to keep our garden baskets filled!
Eat Your Food - Naturally!