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Southwest Gardening: Yellow Bell Leaf Damage

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ClimbingOnion
Tucson, AZ
(Zone 9b)

June 16, 2012
9:59 AM

Post #9167543

Hi all -
I thought you guys could direct me to the best place to solicit guidance regarding an issue I am having with what I think is a yellow bell varietal. I have attached photos of the damage and the blooms. When I bought this a year ago I thought I was buying an Arizona Yellow Bell (native), but upon closer inspection it looks to be a hybrid (based on leaf morphology) and therefore may not be feeling so "at home". I have been battling infestations of something (catepillar?). Lots of balck specs caught up in webs and the green is being sucked from the leaves just leaving a skeleton. Damage is all over but more prevalent on younger leaves. I just don't know what to do. I used some tobacco tea on it last year and cut off a lot of damage. It seemed to work, but I suspect it had more to do with seasonal timing and now the infestation is more than a little tabacco tea can handle.
Anyone recognize this problem? I'd be grateful for any suggestions.

Thumbnail by ClimbingOnion   Thumbnail by ClimbingOnion
Click an image for an enlarged view.

Fish_knees

Fish_knees
Phoenix, AZ

June 16, 2012
10:13 AM

Post #9167560

I have no idea? I use Neem oil. It's organic and does a good job. Since its oil it sticks and last
Birdlady_Susie
Mesa, AZ

June 22, 2012
5:33 PM

Post #9176458

You could try using bacillus thuringiensis (BT) spray or powder on it. Could be a caterpiller or other sucking type bug and BT will cure that problem toot sweet! The damage to the leaves makes me think of the grape skeletonizer, on which BT also works well. It is natural and won't hurt any of the good guys..

Susie
judyb
Phoenix, AZ
(Zone 9a)

June 22, 2012
5:49 PM

Post #9176483

I'm having a similar problem with my ornamental sweet potatoes. At first I thought it was some sort of spider mite so I took a spray bottle out and wash the leaves off off-and-on during the day. It doesn't get rid of them but it may be keeping them from taking over. Dunno. I hate them! I'm thinking now that it may be some sort of scale insect and they are extremely hard to get rid of.
ClimbingOnion
Tucson, AZ
(Zone 9b)

June 23, 2012
8:40 AM

Post #9177118

I think I found the culprit...see new photo. Tiny green ravenous caterpillars. I assume the black specs everywhere are poo, eewww. Took some Neem to them last weekend at FK's suggestion so I'll continue with that plus manual removal. I have some TB powder that I use for fungus gnats so I'll try some of that as well.
I'll send an update when I feel like I have gotten the upper hand.

Thumbnail by ClimbingOnion
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Fish_knees

Fish_knees
Phoenix, AZ

June 23, 2012
9:26 AM

Post #9177157

Ewwwwww
2ndChance
Tempe, AZ
(Zone 9b)

June 24, 2012
7:13 PM

Post #9179238

Yeah.. Gross. Don't bring ot over here!

BT or DE will organically kill that any time of year. Don't use DE if you have any honey bees right now.
cali41
Scottsdale, AZ

September 4, 2012
7:16 PM

Post #9265129

I have this same issue on my Yellow Bells. Did the neem oil work?
mcvansoest
Mesa, AZ
(Zone 9b)

September 6, 2012
8:27 AM

Post #9266889

Same here, but interestingly only in the front yard, the plant in the back yard so far has escaped infestation.
Both the Yellow Bells and the Orange Bells are so large that I will probably have to take to cutting back the infested areas rather than try and treat.

mcvansoest
Mesa, AZ
(Zone 9b)

September 6, 2012
10:04 AM

Post #9267013

Found some entries on the web that suggest that that caterpillar will metamorphose into some kind of moth.
WormsLovSharon
Las Vegas, NV

September 6, 2012
9:09 PM

Post #9267632

I have it on my black & blue saliva. I have seen little white moths flying around. I was going to spray Neem today but it was windy. I have yellow bells and they are not bothering them but they took down a very healthy pot full of verbena in about 2 days. I was actually shocked how efficient they are at destroying a plant.
az_garden
Phoenix, AZ

September 23, 2012
3:28 PM

Post #9284214

I have this on my yellow bells and orange bells.
mcvansoest
Mesa, AZ
(Zone 9b)

September 23, 2012
7:28 PM

Post #9284429

Yeah they are very efficient, I cut both my yellow and orange bells back last weekend, removing most of the affected areas, but noticed that they are back in full force. I do not think it will end up killing the plants as they are both large mature bushes, but it is not pretty. The manager of the garden department at the local H. Depot suggested BT caterpillar killer, which contains a bacterium that only affects caterpillars and not any other insects. I am not sure I will end up using it but I ordered some (H. Depot does not have it), just in case it jumps to any other plants that might be more fragile.
lonediver
Maricopa, AZ
(Zone 9b)

September 24, 2012
2:00 PM

Post #9285128

Seems to have gotten here as well . Strange how it seems to be going after those of the Tecoma group only . Never had this happen before on bushes that I have had for 7 - 8 years.
judyb
Phoenix, AZ
(Zone 9a)

September 24, 2012
2:07 PM

Post #9285154

I have the nasty little caterpillars on bougainvillea, 2 different plants both have them, as did my Yellow Bells.
2ndChance
Tempe, AZ
(Zone 9b)

September 24, 2012
6:16 PM

Post #9285398

BT is my BFF. My previous BFF, DE, is jealous. So sometimes I invite them both to the party. Water with BT, dust with DE.
mcvansoest
Mesa, AZ
(Zone 9b)

September 24, 2012
6:45 PM

Post #9285413

I just noticed something has also been chowing down on the two bougainvilleas in the back yard... Damage is not as extensive as on the Yellow/Orange Bells, they probably like those better. I was told these caterpillars like Texas Mountain Laurel the best, but I have two small bushes of that variety and they have not been affected at all. Again they must like the Yellow/Orange Bells better or the those just had the nice juicy new growth coming in while the other plants did not.

The BT arrived, if I have the time tomorrow afternoon/evening I may have to try that.
EileenAZ
Tucson, AZ
(Zone 9a)

September 24, 2012
9:27 PM

Post #9285607

BT is quite the savior. Hornworms had just about denuded my tomatoes and chiles overnight, I charged on over to Mesquite Valley and got some Bt and sprayed the plants down, next morning there were dead or dying hornworms in piles under all the plants that were affected. Piles, I tells ya!
judyb
Phoenix, AZ
(Zone 9a)

September 25, 2012
7:19 AM

Post #9285842

Really, Eileen? Piles? Really? :-)

NancySLAZ

NancySLAZ
Sun Lakes, AZ
(Zone 9a)

September 25, 2012
2:46 PM

Post #9286250

I have these caterpillars on my yellow bells too. They really did a job on them. The yellow bells are very close to bougainvilleas and they are affected too. I've been in the Valley for 30 years and never seen this problem before this summer. I wonder why that is. I'm hoping it is just a bad year for them and that next year will be better.
EileenAZ
Tucson, AZ
(Zone 9a)

September 25, 2012
8:33 PM

Post #9286512

Judy- okay, ALMOST piles. Grrrrrr! ;-)
judyb
Phoenix, AZ
(Zone 9a)

September 26, 2012
7:41 AM

Post #9286745

LOL Eileen.
Crista
Gilbert, AZ

September 28, 2012
4:30 PM

Post #9289264

This week's newsletter from Harpers Nursery talks about how so many people have been hit with these caterpillars - and they seem to love the tecomas, bougies and yellow bells. I have three big tecomas that look like crap all the sudden ... and just like you had Climbing Onion, lots of little black poops and skeletonized leaves. They'll be getting a little BT cocktail this evening!
mcvansoest
Mesa, AZ
(Zone 9b)

September 28, 2012
5:56 PM

Post #9289343

Yeah, I am on day 4 of the BT cocktail, seems to have stopped it from getting worse, but it definitely does not make them look pretty again, some new growth will have to happen.

Crista
Gilbert, AZ

September 28, 2012
6:21 PM

Post #9289369

I'm so glad that we have some warm weather left so that the plants have a chance to recover!
Birdlady_Susie
Mesa, AZ

October 4, 2012
9:48 PM

Post #9296321

I have them on my tecomas, my yellow bells and today notice large poop piles under a branch of my Chaste tree. Found and plucked the little muncher. Put him in a jar with a wire lid, going to give to my grandsons. He is so large, he should be ready to go to ground and cocoon himself in. Will be a nice science project for them! All others are fed to birds in alley... LOL!

Susie
WormsLovSharon
Las Vegas, NV

October 4, 2012
10:06 PM

Post #9296331

Susie, was he a horn worm. I have a creeping charlie outside in the shade of a low height palm (about 7') and it was doing great. I looked at it last night after a board meeting. All the leaves looked like lace. I see it every day and two days ago it was beautiful. But I saw no worms but a lot of small white moth/butterflies flying around. They are also on my black and blue saliva and a couple of ornamental trees I have in my holding garden. Nothing on my tecomas. I have the black and blue saliva in different areas in the landscape and all three bushes are affected. I sprayed BT tonight at sundown. I should have laid something white under the plants to see what drops dead, I hope.

Are yours eating the entire leaf or leaving it look like lace. I will post photos tomorrow.
judyb
Phoenix, AZ
(Zone 9a)

October 5, 2012
6:52 AM

Post #9296455

I found the lacy-leaf syndrome on my Hacienda creeper, something was tickling my memory, so I looked closer and, sure enough, it looked like grape-leaf skeletonizers - the bane of my grape-growing attempts. I sprayed the plant with Bt and hoped for the best. They are tiny little worms with stripes across their bodies. Hate 'em!
judyb
Phoenix, AZ
(Zone 9a)

October 5, 2012
6:52 AM

Post #9296456

I found the lacy-leaf syndrome on my Hacienda creeper, something was tickling my memory, so I looked closer and, sure enough, it looked like grape-leaf skeletonizers - the bane of my grape-growing attempts. I sprayed the plant with Bt and hoped for the best. They are tiny little worms with stripes across their bodies. Hate 'em!
Birdlady_Susie
Mesa, AZ

October 5, 2012
11:37 AM

Post #9296675

Yes, he was a horn worm. HUGE, so he should be ready to dig in and cocoon himself pretty soon. They have him in an aquarium with about 6" of dirt, so he should be happy.

*side note- got an email from the Maricopa Cooperative Extension office - (slightly edited for length)
"We have a species identification on the larva that has been defoliating tecomas, like yellow bells and orange jubilee. It is "Antigastra catalaunalis", a pyralid first collected in southern Baja in October on Tecoma, later reared in CA on penstemon. It is a leaf-tier. As I mentioned earlier, always select least toxic measures to manage any pest problem. Since this is a new problem in AZ, we haven't had a lot of experience controlling it. We don't know how persistent they will be. It is possible that the first frost of winter will knock them back and we won't see them again. Try to encourage clients to adopt a "wait and see" attitude, if possible. If it is necessary to use chemical controls, I recommend a Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) product. Use at the maximum labeled rate. The caterpillar's habit of covering itself in leaf material means contact insecticides will probably not work.
There is a picture on BugGuide of the larva, just like ones that have been submitted. In Jerry Powels' book 'Moths of Western North America,' they call it the Tecoma Leaf-tier. It is Old World tropics and subtropics in origin, introduced here.


Grape leaf skeletonizers are nasty! They also make me itch so bad - I am really allergic to them. BT should do the job.

NancySLAZ

NancySLAZ
Sun Lakes, AZ
(Zone 9a)

October 5, 2012
8:41 PM

Post #9297109

I wondered why they are just showing up here in the Phoenix area and we have never had them before?
WormsLovSharon
Las Vegas, NV

October 5, 2012
8:52 PM

Post #9297121

Thank you so much for the great info. I have seen all these white and tan moths. I found a very small one today on my yellow bells. I sprayed with BT last night and I found a larger one crawling down the driveway. It was large and had many legs. Not a skeleton worm. We had those earlier on a Texas Laurel. They seem to like afternoon shade.

I really appreciate the info. Thanks, Sharon
2ndChance
Tempe, AZ
(Zone 9b)

October 7, 2012
4:08 PM

Post #9298893

Oh great, now I have them. The skeletonized leaved seemed to pop up over night! I told my husband that I was going to get up early this morning and spray the orange bells with Bt. Well . . . when I got up he was already doing it! I asked how he knew where the Bt was; and he said he went anf bought some Malathion. Not my preference, but the things are dead.
WormsLovSharon
Las Vegas, NV

October 7, 2012
9:02 PM

Post #9299136

Those small moths are all over the greenbelt. Every where you walk in the grass, in the greenbelt, they fly up. I see more small white moths than the tan color.
2ndChance
Tempe, AZ
(Zone 9b)

October 9, 2012
5:45 PM

Post #9300994

Is anyone going to prune now or wait and see what sprouts in the spring?
WormsLovSharon
Las Vegas, NV

October 9, 2012
10:27 PM

Post #9301215

We have a big storm moving in late tomorrow with rain, 60 mph winds, and thunderstorms. And we all know this will be one of the few times the weathermen are correct. I got an alert from the National Weather. We are going down 20 degrees in temperatures.

I have been doing homemaking things since Sunday planning on gardening Thursday and Friday. It is the 60mph winds that worry me.

But maybe the wind will blow all these little moths out of state into the Texas gulf. They are flying all over my front landscape. Every time I see one I ask them which one of my plants are you visiting today. They just flutter right on by, one time I thought I heard laughing, and land one of my flowers.

NancySLAZ

NancySLAZ
Sun Lakes, AZ
(Zone 9a)

October 10, 2012
8:12 AM

Post #9301459

I have pruned off a lot of the affected parts of my plants already. I'm not sure though if you were going to prune heavily. I've seen many plants in my neighborhood that look almost dead (I hope not).

NancySLAZ

NancySLAZ
Sun Lakes, AZ
(Zone 9a)

October 10, 2012
8:21 AM

Post #9301471

Our plant expert in our Homeowners Association just sent out the following information:

I received an email from Kelly Young, Assistant Agent, Horticulture of the University of Arizona
Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County, saying they have identified the caterpillar larva that has
been defoliating tecomas, like yellow bells and orange jubilee, as well as bougainvilleas. Its name is
Sesame Leaf Roller (Antigastra catalaunalis) because it is a pest of Sesame crops. It was first seen in
October 2011 in southern Baja, Mexico, then in April 2012, it appeared in California. Looks like it
made it to IronOaks this summer. The caterpillar rolls a leaf up around itself and ties it with silk to
form a cocoon. Then it covers itself in silk and later emerges from the cocoon as an unremarkable
looking moth.
As suggested by Kelly in an earlier issue of the IronOaks SITL, always select the least toxic
measures to manage any pest problem. Since this is a new problem in IronOaKS, we have not had a
lot of experience controlling it. We do not know how persistent they will be. It is possible that the first
frost of winter will knock them back and we will not see them again. Kelly suggests we adopt a "wait
and see" attitude, if possible. If it is necessary to use chemical controls, Kelly recommends a Bt
(Bacillus thuringiensis) product. Use at the maximum labeled rate. The caterpillar's habit of covering
itself in leaf material means contact insecticides will probably not work.
Paul Schueneman
Ask the Plant Guy
10/08/2012
judyb
Phoenix, AZ
(Zone 9a)

October 10, 2012
8:42 AM

Post #9301486

I pruned a Yellow Bells that looked like a goner from these nasty caterpillars. It is already coming back with lots of new growth. I say trim them and hope a cold winter doesn't play havoc with new growth. The sooner the better to prune them.
mcvansoest
Mesa, AZ
(Zone 9b)

October 10, 2012
3:44 PM

Post #9301782

I pruned early on when there were still a lot of moths flying about which meant I just exposed more of the unaffected part of the bush to them, because the damage came back within a few days about twice as bad, so now I am treating with BT and leaving the bushes I have as is, given that I still see plenty of the moths flying about. Since I started the BT, which I am now tapering off it would seem the damage has not gotten much worse, a few areas here and there probably where I did not get enough BT got some new damaged leaves, but not much else. I just have 3 ugly looking Tecomas, and one ugly Bougainvillea, the other Bougainvillea seems less affected even though it is planted right next to the other one.
Crista
Gilbert, AZ

October 10, 2012
6:33 PM

Post #9301905

Sounds like you're describing my yard mcvansoest! Like you, I tried pruning first thinking that whatever was eating the bushes would get pruned off. Argh! Next the BT, but at least there doesn't seem to be anymore damage. I think I may spray everything one more time just to be sure.
EileenAZ
Tucson, AZ
(Zone 9a)

October 13, 2012
6:19 PM

Post #9304289

Well, I'm glad you guys are using BT instead of radical toxic stuff, that's all I have to say- besides I hope your plants all come back a bunch before it gets cold (like it's ever freaking going to).
mcvansoest
Mesa, AZ
(Zone 9b)

October 15, 2012
10:23 PM

Post #9306673

Yeah, I was hesitant to use the BT, especially when I was not yet sure what kind of flyer the caterpillar would turn into, but it got so bad so quickly that the moment I realized it was a small little moth that apparently is a plague in the Valley at the moment, I decided that BT was warranted. I was gone over the weekend, so no time to spray and while the plants are still ugly and there are still a few moths flying about, the worst appears to be over. I see some new growth that is not being munched on and two of my three Tecomas are still flowering, the third, which is the smallest, and still in a pot, might not make it. I am keeping my fingers crossed as it has some new leaves showing, but it is looking very very sad.
lonediver
Maricopa, AZ
(Zone 9b)

October 16, 2012
9:17 PM

Post #9307605

I bought some neem oil a few weeks ago to treat mine with but with so many other things going on right now , just did not get the time to treat . Over the last week I am seeing lots of new growth on the plants so crisis seems to be over for awhile . But as mcvansoest said plants are still looking sad and it will take some time for them to recover .
ClimbingOnion
Tucson, AZ
(Zone 9b)

October 21, 2012
10:04 AM

Post #9311265

Holy cow! That's what I get for posting something and then getting distracted. Looks like others were dealing with the same thing. I resorted to Bt and it seemed to do the trick. In addition to the tiny caterpillars I found a giant hornworm cohabitating and basically working on one of the last two remaining branches with leaves. I relocated it and then doused the plant. Bougainvillea was fading fast so I gave her a shot too. Everyone seems to be recovering nicely (albeit Tecoma recovery much slower).
In case you want more resources, I found a write-up from the UA Cooperative Extension at http://www.trivalleycentral.com/trivalley_dispatch/farm_and_ranch/arizona-gardeners/article_27e0865c-17d3-11e2-82e9-001a4bcf887a.html
Thanks for everyone's input and observations!
Crista
Gilbert, AZ

October 21, 2012
8:23 PM

Post #9311765

Boy the bougies, yellow bells and tecomas around town sure look lousy. Was noticing the damage today in Mesa/Chandler/Gilbert along the city and freeway landscaped areas.

NancySLAZ

NancySLAZ
Sun Lakes, AZ
(Zone 9a)

October 22, 2012
4:56 PM

Post #9312524

I sure hope these Tecoma leaf-tiers are not going to be an annual occurrence. The bougs and yellow bells will weaken with each attack.

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