Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Okay, so the title's a little dramatic, but this is the time of year when we start seeing insect damage in the garden, and sometimes it feels like we're being invaded. Fortunately, if you know what to look for, it's easy to keep things in check before anything major happens. 

Last night when I was in the garden, I saw this:

Tiny holes in my broccoli leaves! Any time I see leaf damage, I go in for a closer look.

See them? They're tiny. No? This should do it: 

That "big" one in the center is just shy of a quarter-inch long. And they blend in so well!

These caterpillars are in the cabbage butterfly family; their Latin name is Pieris rapae. They grow fast and have huge appetites, making for a lot of damage if you aren't careful. The adults are small(ish) white butterflies that can be seen flitting around over most of North America and beyond.

I squash them in place on the leaves when they're this small. This seems to keep other caterpillars away, too, which is nice. (If I miss any, though, the chickens are happy to take care of them for me when I do find them. I don't let them in the garden most of the year, so I just pick off the bugs and toss them over the fence- the girls go bonkers for them. Since the chickens are used to this routine, they tend to hang out around the perimeter when I'm in the garden.)

I typically avoid using sprays to control insects when I'm gardening, so picking them off or squishing them works for me. Other non-toxic options are diatomaceous earth or Bt, applied per their labels. I find it easy enough to monitor the plants for eggs and caterpillars, though, and generally that's all we need around our place.

What pests are you starting to see in your garden?

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