We have been noticing thieves in our garden lately. One day the parsley was fine, but a couple of days later it was gone. Has this happened in your vegetable garden? Could caterpillars really be the culprit?
We decided to investigate what happened and set up a camera. In our video, you can see caterpillars getting bigger while our plant was vanishing.
We found out that the Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) was to blame for the damage. The caterpillar looks a lot like the monarch caterpillar. Experts believe that the Black Swallowtail mimics the monarch so birds and other predators might leave it alone. The monarch is actually toxic to eat because of the milkweed plant that it consumes. The Black Swallowtail eats parsley, carrots and dill. The caterpillars in the video are devouring a parsley plant.
What You Can Do To Protect Your Garden From Caterpillars
There are many different kinds of caterpillars, so first you need to know what type is attacking your plant. In our case, it was the Black Swallowtail.
If you happen to see the eggs the Black Swallowtail laid on your plants (fennel, dill, parsley or carrots), remove them manually. If you missed them, you can also remove the caterpillars themselves since they are large and very visible.
If you want to enjoy the beautiful swallowtail butterflies, simply transfer the caterpillars to another plant instead of killing them.
You could protect your plants with insect barrier fabrics from caterpillars. To be effective, the barrier must be in place over the crop before the caterpillar eggs are laid on the plants, or you will end up protecting the developing larvae from their natural predators.
Another option is getting a spray or dust that contains the bacteria bacillus thuringiensis. This particular bacterium is commonly used as a biological pesticide. Experts say it is fatal to caterpillars but harmless to other animals.
If you are in in the mood to start your own vegetable garden, visit: https://neworleanslocal.com/coronavirus-quarantine-curriculum-plant-a-vegetable-garden/