Leafy Spurge Hawk Moth Caterpillars

lvtgrdnSeptember 23, 2008

I posted pics in the Butterfly Garden Gallery section, and asked people there to help me decide if I should let the 3 I have devouring my spurge plant stay there, or maybe take 2 of them off with a stick and put them on the edge of a bird bath for the birds to see.

I found out these moths were imported from Europe to control spurge in farm fields, so they aren't native. Hey, maybe I could find a farmer who wants them!

I know many of the people on that forum take every caterpillar they see inside to raise, and would tell me to leave them alone. I just have to decide if I want my plant any more this year. I am guessing it will come back next year, but by the time these cats are done, there will be no plant left.

What would you do?

Sue

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Nell Jean

I would lump feeding undesired caterpillars to the birds in with our allowing people to hunt deer here if they're used for food.

My fav hunters are boys who are learning to hunt responsibly and dress and eat what they kill, accompanied by an adult. Neither DH nor I would shoot a deer, but the wild herd is up to 15 at last count.

Nell

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 2:01PM
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lvtgrdn

Thanks Nell,
Guess what else I learned on the internet? Leafy Spurge, a Euphorbia, is also native to Europe. There are native spurges, but I'm not sure if mine is.

Now that I've had a chance to process this, I have reminded myself that I wanted to plant some host plants for caterpillars, and it appears I have in the euphorbia. From what I read, even though these were imported to control spurge, it doesn't really kill it. Also, from what I read, these may be almost full grown, so, so far, I am leaving them alone.

Besides, when I showed my 26 year old dd the caterpillars, she said they were very cool. What a nice thing to hear from her! Now that I've said that, I want to show one off.

Sue

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 3:02PM
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Nell Jean

I don't know anything about spurge, but parsley will come back from the nubs above the roots when black swallowtails eat them to the ground.

nj

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 3:25PM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

Thats one cool Caterpillar! Look at the colors on it!
Im not sure what id do. Id hate to kill something so amazing, but I wouldnt want my Euphorbia destroyed either. Dont worry though, Euphorbia are resiliant plants (what kind do you have anyway?). Of course if the cat. eats all of the plant you wont get to see it turn its fall color...
CMK

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 6:10PM
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lvtgrdn

Hi Nell and CMK,
A friend of mine gave me the spurge, but I don't know if she told me what kind it is. I plan to email her a pic of the cats and ask her if she has them. She has a much larger yard than I do, and has a lot of spurge. I actually have another plant she gave me in the same bed, and so far, there are no leaves eaten off of it.

A little while ago, I had my DH come out to see my latest dilemma that I had decided to solve by leaving the cats alone. There were only two caterpillars, and they were next to each other, so you could only see one well. It looked like it had grown since I saw it earlier today! At first it looked like neither was eating, but the bottom one started chewing again. I'm wondering if the one that I couldn't find has started its chrysalis. Dh thought they were pretty cool, too, and teased me about how I thought I could decide which one to let live.

The Euphorbia I've planted in the past had thicker leaves than this, I think, and did not live over the winter. It will be interesting to see if this does or not. I guess I can always get more from my friend or plant something else there.

Sue, who got no answers on the butterfly form

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 7:32PM
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todancewithwolves(Z9 CA)

What a beautiful cat. Personally, I would let nature do it's thing and leave them be. But it sounds as if it's a pest for you. If I had the host plant I would take them off your hands.

Of course all the people on the butterfly forum would say keep it or raise it.

Edna

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 11:38PM
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gldno1

It sure is a stunning looking thing.

I don't know what I would do....I guess it would depend on how much I valued the plant. Sometimes Mother Nature takes care of these things for us. Some other thing may require it for lunch!

I am still finding cats here and there and saw some butterflies recently.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2008 at 6:21AM
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lvtgrdn

This morning, before I went to work, I noticed that there were still two cats on the one plant, and one on the one I thought they would leave alone. After work, I saw there were two on the one that is about to bloom, and one on the first plant I saw them on.

I got a couple replies on the butterfly forum, and they were understanding ones. One person said that since they were not native, she didn't know what the right thing to do would be, and I should contact my lep society here. I'll have to see about that. I could call the extension office. Of course, by morning, my buds will probably be gone. :o( I didn't realize it was a fall blooming plant. I just thought maybe it was going to wait until next year to bloom.

I have seen eggs and small swallowtail cats, but they must be getting eaten by the birds, because I haven't seen full grown ones. I am seeing lots of butterflies every day, mostly Monarchs and Painted Ladies. I saw an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail today for the first time in awhile. I had been seeing more than one each day.

Sue

    Bookmark   September 24, 2008 at 11:13PM
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todancewithwolves(Z9 CA)

Lucky you! We haven't had any butterflies this year, not one. I have lots of skippers but that's because I planted clover. They use clover as a host plant.

You take great pictures.

Edna

    Bookmark   September 25, 2008 at 1:09AM
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lvtgrdn

Thanks, Edna,
I take plenty that get deleted, too. I have skippers in my yard, too. I have been seeing hummingbird moths almost every evening when I'm out as it's getting dark. I can't tell if they are the leafy spurge hawk moths, but they are supposed to be like hummingbird moths.

Well, I still have flower heads. I only saw one cat today. The other two may have been hidden, eaten, or started forming their chrysalises.

Sue

    Bookmark   September 25, 2008 at 11:04PM
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lvtgrdn

Well, there are no more cats on the euphorbia, and it looks like it will still bloom. My friend said hers bloomed early summer, but maybe mine is just now because it was moved. We looked at her big patch, and saw no stems with the leaves off like mine, and no cats, so there must not be a huge population of these moths so far.

Thanks for helping me work through this.

Sue

    Bookmark   September 26, 2008 at 10:31PM
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memo(Zone 4B Nebraska)

Hi Sue, Just a word of warning....if that is common leafy spurge you have growing in your garden you should know that it is illegal to have it in NE. Once in your garden...always in your garden. Plus the roots have been known to grown as much 25-30 feet deep. We have some of it growing wild in some of our fields and we are required by law to destroy it as much as possible. We spend a pretty penny on chemicals to do that every year. If we don't, the state will do it and then fine us a large sum of money for leaving it there untreated. We are required to keep it sprayed throughout the growing season. It is very unwanted because it takes over a field and destroys the native plants. It totally destroys the ecosystem that is so vital to the prairies. Check with your extension service and ask them to send you a brochure about it. Also ask them what chemical cocktail will be most effective to destroy it. You may have to call in a specialist.

MeMo

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 3:19AM
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lvtgrdn

Thanks Memo,
I do not grow invasive plants. If I find out something I have is invasive, I pull it out. I am still pulling out the wild goldenrod I put in a number of years ago. I looked at pics of common leafy spurge on the internet, and don't think that's what I have. My leaves are finer and the plants are shorter. I'm going to make sure, though, because the difference in appearance could be due to growing conditions. Mine haven't spread much so far, either.

Sue

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 10:33AM
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todancewithwolves(Z9 CA)

Good point, MeMo. Hence the reason for importing the moth, to keep the plant under control.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 1:42PM
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aftermidnight Zone7b B.C. Canada

Look at the colors and pattern on that guy, I'd say let nature take it's course.
Annette

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 8:15PM
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lvtgrdn

LOL, Annette, I did let nature take its course, and the cats are either eaten or chrysalises.

When I was first finding information about the moth, I read somewhere that it feeds on other euphorbias besides the narrow leaf kind. Today, I did further research on euphorbias and couldn't tell from the Nebraska Extension Office and other sites. My two plants are shorter, and did not appear to be spreading. I tried to find the one I'm growing, but since there are over 2,000 kinds of euphorbias, I was unable to look at all of them.

I went over to my friend's and looked at her patch. It is spreading on a stem lying down on the ground like the ones on the site. When I came home from my friend's I decided to pull the plants just in case that's what they are. I was surprised at how much root came out with them, and what looked like little starts of new plants, as well. I don't expect to need chemicals to control any new plants that emerge, because I am good at keeping on top of things like that.

When I talked to my friend later, she said the guy who gave the plants to her called them something else. She didn't know they were euphorbias. I let her know they are illegal to grow.

Do these look like what you have, MeMo?

Thanks for the warning,
Sue

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 9:16PM
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memo(Zone 4B Nebraska)

Yeppers, Sue, that is the plant. They grow wild here on the prairie and we are still responsible for irradicating them. I'm sorry if I burst your bubble. Truly I am. It's better safe than sorry though, I suppose. I hope you can control them now that the roots are in your soil. I have actually seen magazine articles that promote this plant as an easy to grow perennial. Unbelievable that a "plant professional" wouldn't know this kind of information. I hope that your Hawks hatch out in the spring and continue to help you keep this plant at bay. Good luck!

MeMo

    Bookmark   October 4, 2008 at 3:34AM
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lvtgrdn

I'm glad you were able to identify this for me, MeMo. I've been checking, and so far, haven't seen any spurge poking itself out of the soil. Now that I know, I will be extra diligent in keeping it pulled.

Thanks,
Sue

    Bookmark   October 4, 2008 at 11:10PM
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FlowerLady6(z10 Fl)

That is a cool looking cat. Very colorful.

FlowerLady

    Bookmark   October 5, 2008 at 2:16PM
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