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The Annual Invasion Has Begun!!!

DeLand, FL(Zone 9b)

They weren't there a couple days ago, but this morning, there are THOUSANDS of cats all over my antique azaleas....I wish I were exaggerating, but lots of azaleas equals lots of these litte buggers! Who, do you ask, am I so distraught by? Well, it's the infamous Azalea Caterpillar Moth. There's nothing to be done now but wait and see how much damage will be done this year; I only wish something prettier came of all the destruction.

http://davesgarden.com/guides/bf/go/2018
http://entomology.ifas.ufl.edu/creatures/orn/azalea_caterpillar.htm

Thumbnail by Emma75
DeLand, FL(Zone 9b)

Another photo...they've already stripped all the healthy growth off the top, and are working their way down....there are roughly 50 just in this shot alone!

Thumbnail by Emma75
(Zone 9a)

Wow, I have never seen those cats, I hope they stay in FL. Have you tried BT?

DeLand, FL(Zone 9b)

We used to live in central SC, and I never saw them there either (or, for that matter, when we lived in Savannah). When we moved here, I was forewarned by neighbors that this would happen, and like clockwork, this is the third time they've shown up right around Fourth of July (we bought the house two years ago in early June).

What is BT? The problem is that I purposely have tons of host plants for other butterflies, and most products don't discriminate. I tend to not use any pesticides unless there's a tick outbreak, and then it's granular to try and avoid too much contact for the caterpillars I like.

Pinellas Park, FL(Zone 9b)

Have you tried just handpicking them and destroying them?

DeLand, FL(Zone 9b)

Though I do employ the Pick and Stomp method for many unwanted critters in my garden (currently at war with the lubber grasshoppers with this method), there are literally hundreds of them on each of my azaleas, and right now, there are more than 34 azaleas in my garden...I'd be out there all day for days on end since each female lays 80-100 eggs at a time. There doesn't seem to be much choice but to wait it out since I can't use pesticides.....

Pinellas Park, FL(Zone 9b)

You may want to look for "contact" pesticides that you could use just on the azaleas.

DeLand, FL(Zone 9b)

I've never heard of that type of pesticide; it's never even occured to me to look for something like this, but I think I'll do some internet research on it. Thank you for the suggestion!

(Zone 9a)

BT is bacillus thuringensis; I think this is a good explanation of what it is and how it works.

http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/Insect/05556.html

I generally have enough plants so I can share some with the critters but that damage to your azaleas is too much. Those cats are not playing fair. :-)

Pinellas Park, FL(Zone 9b)

Try neem oil as long as the other cats are sharing the azaleas

Tallahassee, FL

Those things bite or sting don't they? I saw them on my azaleas when I lived in Jacksonville. I would try the Bt.
Bob

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

i would just do Bt on the azaleas, nothing else. that way you won't harm other cats in other parts of the garden. no way could i stand for that! ick, ick, ick!

DeLand, FL(Zone 9b)

I've not been brave enough to touch them, so I don't know if they bite...I just figure they outnumber me, so it's best to stay away! They have already stripped about 1/4 of every azalea in my garden, and I've still not been able to find the BT locally (surprise, surprise since moving to such a small town). Does anyone know if there's a good online retailer to buy the BT from? I like the idea of it since it doesn't seem to be detrimental to the rest of the garden.

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

do you have an ace hardware nearby? it's sold under the name thuricide. lowe's carries it too.

DeLand, FL(Zone 9b)

Yes, I have both, but I thought thuricide was a pretty potent chemical pesticide; the only time I've really heard it discussed was at the Rose Society meetings that I'm a newbie to. I'd never have guessed that it's safe to use in a butterfly garden. I've never really used any pesticides other than granulars for fleas and ticks!

Just took some pics...they are growing by leaps and bounds every day, but this behavior of sticking together is very typical of them. This close-up turned out prety good, even with my old camera!



Thumbnail by Emma75
DeLand, FL(Zone 9b)

Late afternoon, they are so stuffed that they actually become a bit narcoleptic, and hang like limp noodles. You can really see how they strip the limbs bare, working their way up and out.


Thumbnail by Emma75
DeLand, FL(Zone 9b)

This azalea was lush and thick just a week ago...there were plans to move this one and the one next to it to my neighbor's house since we're having so much rain right now, but I think the cats are stressing the plant too much to put it through a successful transplant right now.

Thumbnail by Emma75
(Zone 9a)

OMG, that is terrible.

DeLand, FL(Zone 9b)

The ones in the photos aren't ones I'm keeping (there were almost 100 in a massive planting when we bought the house), but all of them in my yard and the two houses across the street are like this in just a week. Next week will be even worse (last summer, I was left with nothing but sticks after they'd been there a month). I did just transplant three last month to another part of the garden, so I'm hoping they aren't killed by having so much loss of leaves when they need them to photosynthesize new roots!

I think I'll be heading to Lowe's tomorrow or Sunday to get some of the thuricide before they have a chance to become adults and lay even more eggs!!!

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

thuricide is not a potent chemical. it is made of bacteria or something like that. i think ardesia posted a link for you. it's perfectly safe to use around pets, kids, people, plants and any kind of bug. the only thing it kills is caterpillars. it works by the cat ingesting the Bt laden leaf and it stops their digestive system from working and the cats starve. within a few days, you will be cat free on these plants. it doesn't work instantly. they have to eat it. if you have butterfly cats near by, they will not be affected unless they eat the azalea leaf.

technically, it is not safe to spray in a butterfly garden but not because of any potent chemical thing, just what i've stated above.

DeLand, FL(Zone 9b)

I do have some unruly maypop in the azalea mass pictured , but I think I can still manage to reduce the population of these cats without spraying the BT on the maypop that is covered with Gulf Frits. Even reducing them by half would be better; after all, this is five days' worth of damage, and their breeding season has just begun!

I greatly appreciate all the advice and info ~ I honestly never thought I'd get a resolution to this problem without seriously harming the bugs I want! If only the wasps would attack these guys instead of the Monarchs, Queens and Black Easterns, I'd not have to deal with it at all, but for some reason they don't find these hairy buggers tasty!

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

good luck and let us know how you do.

(Zone 9a)

I would cut off the maypops at the base. By the time they grow back you might have the cats under control.

Sarasota, FL

bt works well i us it to control the caterpillars from a black moth that do the same to snowbushes
neem oil will burn alot of plants in the heat of summer so be careful and test spray before use...i think it says in instructions not to spray
when temps are over 85...all summer basically
murphy oil soap works also tablespoon per gallon ... again test prior to use on a few leaves in this heat

DeLand, FL(Zone 9b)

Murphy's is one of the hubby's favorite garden treatments, but right now circumstances with his job have me 100% in charge of pest control. I didn't know it would kill cats, but I honestly never knew what he was using it for in the first place (though I know it wasn't cats). He's a big fan of Jerry Baker treatments, and has almost every book that old man ever published! I suppose I ought to crack the pages of one or two of them sometime, but that would mean digging them out of a tote in the garage. Neem oil I know will work, but yes, we've had issues with it burning leaves in the heat when we lived in SC.

I've been transplanting the maypop to parts of the garden where I actually want it, and am planning on getting rid of it anyway in this part of the garden, which is getting cleared of all azaleas as I find new homes for them. I guess I could just move the cuttings to other parts of the garden so the cats on the maypop aren't anywhere near the BT.

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

the good thing about Bt is that there is no oil in it and will not burn plants.

btw, great article on Bt, ardesia! i've bookmarked it.

This message was edited Jul 10, 2009 8:03 PM

DeLand, FL(Zone 9b)

I agree that it is a fabulous article, and I have it bookmarked as well! I may even use it on my roses now that I understand what it is (it's recommended by the local Rose Society for one of the bugs that continually plagues roses throughout the summer down here).

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

just remember that it doesn't work on bugs, just cats.

Tallahassee, FL

The pamphlet that comes with the Thuricide says not to get the spray in your eyes or inhale the vapor or get it on your skin. If it is so harmless I wonder why all the precautions. It also says not to use so much that it runs off the leaves on to the ground. It can be mixed with molasses to help it stick.

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

it's just common sense that you wouldn't want to get it into your eyes, etc. some people tend to be careless with everything and might leave it out where a child could get it. most cosmetics even have warnings attached.

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