Question about sprays?

marilyn_fl(zone 9 Florida)June 9, 2013

How do you deal with bugs getting on your plants. Trying to create a butterfly garden. I don't want to use sprays that will harm the butterflies. Also don't want the bugs destroy my plants.


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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Those other bugs are just as important to the balance of nature as the butterflies. The beautiful songbirds we love to hear chirping in the woods can only survive if they have those bugs to feed their babies. The wild flowers we admire in the woods can only survive if the bugs are there to chew up the fallen leaves and dead trees and stumps to maintain that beautiful moist soil those plants need to grow. If you plant a variety of different types of flowers, that will improve your chances of having something that can survive whatever conditions a particular season presents. Try to remember that the other bugs are just as valuable and fascinating as the butterflies. They just don't have the flashy wings.

The truth is, if you want butterflies in your garden, you can't use poisonous chemicals to kill other bugs because you'll kill the butterflies, too. We have to welcome all comers to the garden. It takes some adjusting, but you really can change your sense of what "beautiful" means

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 9:39PM
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Generally, I agree, Docmom. However, there are some bugs like spidermites, white flies, milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) and aphids that are particularly destructive to the plants we love and that butterflies love also. I take particular offense to the large wasps that eat many of my caterpillars.

Very often the bugs that eat or weaken our flowers will eventually attract other bugs that will eat them. Ladybugs are great eaters of aphids, for example. However, most of the bugs that attack our flowers can be kept under control by either spraying the flowers or plants with a horticultural soap or oil. These sprays usually won't hurt butterflies or other pollinators, but will kill or control insects that feed on the plants.

The orange and black milkweed bugs can be controlled by squishing them between your fingers. A little messy, but somewhat effective.

I know that the wasps are very good at controlling insects that eat our plants, but they are also very good at eating caterpillars. They have bitten me and my dog more than once.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 10:51PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Are the horticultural soaps and oils safe for the host plants that the caterpillars actually consume? I know the destructive power of aphids. They wiped out every lupine I had last year. And what can you do about the wasps? I've heard that traps just attract more of them to your yard. I've just brought any cats or eggs I find indoors to raise, though that is prohibitively time consuming. I guess I'll need to read up a bit more on some less aggressive products.


    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 7:17AM
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I have severe problems with Southern Pink moth (Pyrausta Inornatalis) on my Salvia plants. They feed at night on new growth and flower buds. The plants look ragged, ripped, and rarely will I see blooms with an infestation of the larvae of these pesky little moths. I also get frequent attacks by Genista moths on my Baptisia australis var. minor. They make nests in the tops of the foliage and can very quickly defoliate a plant.

On these two fronts, I do use BT-kurstaki to control them. Otherwise, I wouldn't have blooms on the Salvia and too many attacks on the Baptisia could result in the death of it.

These are extreme measures for me, but essential. I do use caution by using the control days with little to no wind to avoid drift.

Aphids I usually attack by just using the hose, if ladybugs haven't shown up to help out. Other bugs, like the milkweed bugs, I hand squish. You can carry a container with you and toss them in that.

Wasps I have yet to figure out how to control. The best way to protect the caterpillars, though, is to hand raise them.


    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 7:21AM
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Mrtha, the only larval plants that I have which might need spraying are the milkweeds. The soap and oil clearly would not be good for caterpillar eggs,nor for young cats. Spraying the nectar plants with horticultural oil or soap shouldn't hurt the butterflies. The soap effectively washes off insects and their eggs and the oil smothers them. The flowers might not taste good for a few days, but the butterflies aren't harmed in any major way--nor are the hummingbirds.

I should say that the only plants that I spray now are my gardenias, camellias and roses.

As for the wasps, I buy the spray bottles that they sell in the big box stores--the ones that you can spray from ten feet away. The wasps usually make nests in my pipevines. I have a fence of about twenty feet long with pipevines and some passaflora.. I also have a fence of about 12-15 feet with coral honeysuckle and passaflora. That's where the wasps make their nests. I uncover the nests using a rake and then I zap them with the spray.

The only cats that I bring in are the Eastern Black Swallowtails that lay eggs mostly on my fennel. It seems that everything likes to eat them, especially Cardinals who will wipe out all of them in a day when they find them.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 8:07AM
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wifey2mikey(7a Tulsa, OK)

For aphids, I usually just wash them off with the hose. I do squish the milk weed bugs and the swamp milkweed beetles. I have problems with spider mites on my buddleia so I do spray them but they aren't a host for anything that I know of.

I typically bring in all cats to raise in containers on my back porch (shaded all day.) I have had lots of issues with wasps and other predators eating my caterpillars if left on the plants. I bought one of those bug zappers from walmart (it looks like a tennis racket that has two AA batteries) after watching my Uncle use it on wasps at the lake. No report on how that works yet. LOL!


    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 9:10AM
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I don't spray anything. Even insecticidal soaps can be ingested by cats. I simply grow plants that are resistant to such pests. As for milkweed aphids, only a percentage of my plants get them, and these are usually controlled by natural predators. As for wasps, I just raise my cats indoors.
The only pesticide application I incorporate is Milky Spore for Japanese Beetles (the bane of my existence).
My only real problem is rabbits, which just eat everything.
My dog has a ball chasing them, but they always come back.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 9:42AM
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