Tiny caterpillars destroying my zinnias?!

ga-garden(8B)May 14, 2008

A few weeks ago I spotted an ugly leaf on one of my Zinnias, when I pinched it off, I saw the underside was covered with these tiny caterpillar looking bugs.They were about the size of a baby's nail clipping. I killed them and thought nothing more of it. Now they are everywhere. Some are about the length of a dime now. In the morning and evenings you can find them in clusters, during the day I have a hard time finding them at all, and when I do they are alone. I am almost positive they are responsible for the damage. The plants that have no caterpillars have none of the damage. Additionally the leaves' undersides that have been engulfed in them were the ones that are damaged.

I found some egg masses of some sort on other zinnias today when taking pictures and I am assuming those are their eggs, maybe recently vacated, I dunno. I noticed a few young lady bugs too, which I hope will help. Anyone know what these are. I found none in the marigolds or the citrus tree that's smack in the middle of the small garden. Any help would be appreciated!

damage pic


and finally the nasty caterpillar:

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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Photo isn't totally clear. But if that cluster of small white things is what you consider eggs, not so.

Instead, cocoons of tiny, non-stinging wasps whose parent laid eggs in one of the caterpillars. (Oh yeah -- and the caterpillar is now dead.)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 3:54PM
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Thank you Jean for letting me know about the cocoons. I guess they are a good thing for the garden?

Anyone have any idea how I get rid of those yucky caterpillars before they kill my Zinnias all together? :(

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 6:58AM
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sherlock_holmes(z6a PA)

All I could suggest is that you pick them off and squish them as you find them.

I am having trouble finding any info on species of caterpillars that attack Zinnias.

The one site that I did find that mentioned them simply repeated what I said. To hand-pick them.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 8:58PM
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While I don't have the cocoons, I do have these bothersome caterpillars. I pick them off every time I am in the garden, but there are always more. Often they leave what I assume are droppings (brown little dots the size of pepper) on the leaves and then the leaves are damaged. Yesterday the caterpillar was inside the bud of the flower eating out the insides.
Is there anything else you've done to get rid of these guys?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 11:09AM
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Have you tried BT. It kills only caterpillars and will not harm other insects or birds. It causes disease in the caterpillars and only the caterpillars.

There are several kinds, just make sure yours is just for caterpillars .

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 5:26PM
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I got these grey catipillars on my zinnias. The one dude actually wiggle into the flower bud and ate it from inside. I've only seen a couple. At first I thought they didn't get watered but then noticed my seeds were eaten.
They move pretty fast for bugs.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 8:34AM
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Bacillus thuringiensis is not a magic elixar cure all but a specific toxin for leaf eating larva in the early stage of life. Spraying BtK beyond that early life stage is a waste of your money since it will not do what it is supposed to.
As with any insect control you need to look at what you have and determine if this insect really needs control, is the damage the insect doing too much to allow to continue?, or can this insect be allowed to continue to grow. Is this the larva of a butterfly that may be something desireable or is it a not desireable adult something? Are there predators around that will control these wee buggers, or have I sprayed something around that killed all of them off, or have they not arrived yet because there was not enough of this food source around?
As a rule, insects that eat seeds do not eat growing plants so you need to know which you have before any control measures are taken.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 7:58AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Very good comments, kimmsr. We (all) really need to be more thoughtful about when and why we use Bt-K

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 4:06PM
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novice_2009(zone 6b)

I had a great blue lobelia growing in front of my house- it bloomed this year and I saw a hummingbird in my yard for the first time ever. I was so excited. The blooms were beautiful, attracting bumblebees. The leaves didn't look so great, but it's been a bad year weather-wise and with pests too, so didn't know what it could be. Decided to let it go and enjoy this late-blooming plant. I noticed a brown spider had set up residence in the leaves, and thought great!!! He'll eat anything bad that might come this plants way. Well, it has been covered in green caterpillars, and the more I picked, the more there seemed to be. Poop everywhere.
No sprays. Hoping spider would eat cp's. Nope.
What "good guys" eat caterpillars?
Birds don't get that close to my house to be of help.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2010 at 11:04PM
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