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This is part one of a series about care of citrus – how to recognize and deal problems without the use of harmful chemicals. I’ll probably say it several times in this piece but IF YOU WANT A GARDEN FILLED WITH BUTTERFLIES – DON’T KILL THE CATERPILLARS (I make an exception for any that decide to destroy my main food source – my kitchen garden). Read on to find out the two main caterpillars you will find on citrus and why they are not a problem.
I have a lot of empathy with doctors – I see them being waylaid at parties by a guest who wants an on the spot diagnosis of their current ailment while, on the opposite side of the room, I’ve been rumbled by a guest (another avid gardener) whose eyes light up at the thought that they may finally get an answer to their thorny citrus problem (ouch!)
TIP: Don’t overfeed with nitrogen rich fertilizers – you will end up with over large and very pithy fruit and those juicy green leaves will be a magnet for pest attack.
And now to caterpillars on citrus and what to do about them? The answer is basically – NOTHING – just enjoy the butterflies flitting around your garden – they do very little damage.
FIRSTLY: The DAINTY SWALLOWTAIL or Small Orchard Butterfly. You may see a small black/brown/white caterpillar on the leaves of your citrus – that looks a bit like a bird dropping and about 3 cm long.
This is the larvae of this gorgeous butterfly – a welcome sight in any garden? It’s a mainly black and white beauty with a dash of red on the tips of its back wings. I often see them flitting in and out of the pentas and zinnias which they seem to just love.
SECONDLY: The ORCHARD SWALLOWTAIL or Large Citrus Butterfly. You may also see this large caterpillar on your citrus. The red horns pop out as a defence mechanism. They think it makes them look really scary! It will pupate after this stage and turn into the beautiful butterfly below.
I was thrilled to see this beauty in my garden recently – not a common sight I might add. It thought it could make an artistic addition to a mobile I have hanging on my patio? I agree.
Enjoy – don’t destroy. The magnificent Large Citrus Butterfly
Take Jerry Coleby Williams advice (ABC Gardening Australia) and if you find more than one caterpillar on your citrus tree, just move one to another tree – to lessen any damage they may do to the leaves, and enjoy two beautiful butterflies when they emerge from their cocoons.
Don’t blame the damage, in the first photo, on caterpillars – it’s caused by these large fellow in the second photo – crickets/grasshoppers or, in the case of this particular one – the largest of all – field locusts. It’s easy mistake the damage because both chew from the edge of the leaves inwards, but caterpillars on citrus don’t devastate the tree in the way that these critters do.
What to do about them? Plagues of them vary from season to season, usually at their worst in mid-summer, but are not always a problem. Keep your plants healthy (but don’t overfeed) and interplant with a wide variety of strong smelling flowering plants. If you popped your head over my garden fence, you may also see this madwoman dashing about with a butterfly net catching grasshoppers which then go into a bucket of water with a lid on! When I had chooks they cleaned them
Click on this link to find out how to control them without nasty chemicals
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