Bee Balm larvae help needed

roandco(z5ONT)July 18, 2008

Hi All,

My pink bee balm hasn't been flowering that well and I noticed alot of black specks on the flower buds but no leaf damage at all. Today I saw a few tiny, fairly fast moving larvae on the flower heads so I suspect the specks are litter. I also caught a wasp capturing one of the larvae...see picture.

Can anyone tell me what the larvae are? No other plants around the bee balm have these specks and are doing fine.



Here is a link that might be useful: larva on bee balm

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Nice picture of the wasp; how come I'm not that lucky!?!?!?!? Anyway, it's probably Pyrausta signatalis-monarda/horsemint caterpillar.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 3:59PM
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Hi Tracey,

Thank-you for replying. Yes it is an awesome picture of the wasp esp. when zoomed. He certainly had a death grip on it. As for the wasps...I have way too many, particularly mud wasps and sawflies. I have a waterfall pond and wet clay soil surrounding which appears to attract ALOT of wasps/sawflies.

The larvae on the bee balm appear to be affecting the flowering...what are your thoughts on spraying with an organic soap (ie ivory/garlic/veg oil) to get rid of them?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 6:58PM
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I don't spray anything; I hand pick them, with a tweezer and a cup of salty water. Tedious would be putting it mildly, but my preferred method of destruction. I have loads of wasps too, but never witnessed what you did, unfortunately. I had over a dozen black swallowtail caterpillars disappear from my parsley, so I know they wasps are out there.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 8:14PM
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I had my fill of handpicking the sawfly larvae for days on end, my you must have alot of patience!!

I've sprayed a few flowers with the soap mixture and will see what happens over the next few days. The wasps are plentiful around the plant so maybe they'll get them under control.

I was lucky to see one swallowtail butterfly in our backyard a couple of summers ago, it was beautiful. I'm getting a good number of monarchs this year which is great.

I captured a pic of a caterpillar about 2 inches long on the wall by my virginia creeper. Any idea what this is?

Here is a link that might be useful: name this caterpillar

    Bookmark   July 19, 2008 at 12:02PM
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Patience? Me? Not really ;)
I just found my first 5 monarch caterpillars, which I didn't give the wasps a chance to get.
You might want to post that pic over on the Butterfly forum; they're an knowledgable bunch that really know their caterpillars.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2008 at 3:37PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

It looks just like the caterpillar of the eight spotted forester moth, but that wouldn't be a common feeder on bee balm, that I know of. Could be something else, for sure. You might want to post this on the Butterfly Forum for a good ID.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2008 at 1:21PM
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Hi All,

Tracey, good news about the monarchs, happy raising!

Rhizo - I think you are correct about the 8 spotted forester thanks for replying!! I actually found this caterpillar by my Virginia Creeper which is a host plant. Hopefully I will see the moths soon.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2008 at 9:52PM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

Just found this post after posting the same problem on the Perennials Forum (didn't know this existed). Roandco, did you eventually get rid of the pest? I see little holes on some leaves, and the little black specks on the buds, but I have never seen a caterpillar, so picking them off is not an option for me. I have had this plant for over 8 years. I got blooms last year by spraying dish soap water daily as soon as I saw them, but I would like to get rid of them. I am thinking of dumping the plant because I do not use pesticides of any kind.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 2:44AM
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Hi Northerner,

I sprayed with ivory/vegetable oil/garlic in water and it did get rid of them however it seems that the beebalm was at the end its' bloom cycle anyway. Yes, the larvae are very difficult to see and it appears that they get into the unopened buds and eat the petals so flowering was sparse. I now have grasshoppers on the plant ..arggg. I have it planted in 2 other areas and they didn't have as much as a problem with the larvae and one spray with the soap seemed to do the trick. I deadheaded the plant and will see if I get any more flowers this season. I think next year I will spray as it starts growing and see if it makes a difference.

Good Luck


    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 11:02AM
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