honeybucket(z 8)August 11, 2009

Help me please! Every year about this time I vow NEVER again will I plant petunias or geraniums! But each spring their promise and beauty overtakes me. EVERY SUMMER I struggle with what I call 'budworms.' These pests are good at camouflage, eat from the inside-out of the blooms and simply destroy my pretty petunias and geraniums in late July and early August. I hand pick by finding their little 'poopie' droppings on lower leaves. Heartbreaking!

These worms laugh at the Bt spray I've used. No avail! My local Home Depot gardener informs me that Bt is no longer on the market and recommended Sevin spray instead (for reasons I can't disagree with...it's safer) Still no avail.

Expert advice?

Here is a link that might be useful:

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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Bt *is* still on the market and it's sold under various brandnames, among them Dipel, Attack for Caterpillars, Safer's Caterpillar Killer, and more.

In order to find that info, you need to read the ingredients list on a label. Look for Bacillus thuringiensis and/or Bt.

But the catch is that you have to apply Bt while the caterpillars are very young so that they get a dose at the first bite.

In other words, you need to repeat spray as needed. Then, too,you must completely coat the leaves/flowers/buds the critters are eating.

Or you can do regular search-and-destroy tours through the garden. Very satisfying to know they are *really* gone!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 10:27PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Seems like we've heard this false rumor regarding Bt before, and also from one of the big box stores. Unfortunately, as much plants and gardening supplies that are sold from these outlets, their gardening staff tends to be woefully ill-informed.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 4:10PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Perhaps because people think that Bt (spelled out or not) is a product name. (Don't know for certain, though.)

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 6:14PM
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I was just about to post a query about these same tiny green worms. Are they caterpillars that will turn into something beneficial or beautiful (like the butterflies that come from the tomato hornworm). I'm willing to sacrifice some of my petunias, if so. But if not, I'll just keep squashing them.

My petunias are all in hanging baskets, so it's easy to keep an eye out for the worms. But I can see how having beds of petunias would make it really hard to control them.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 8:39PM
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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

Up front - I am neither against BT or chemical products that fight this pest, take your choice! We have had major problems with this critter here in southcentral KS, USA. I have tried Sevin, BT, even Triazicide and (now prohibited here) Dursban and had these darned things return. I gave up on petunias due to Phytophthora. Last year I had my best control for budworm (as we only have two or three 30" pots of geraniums) when I got down on my hands and knees and slowly, deliberately, went through each plant time after time and plucked/squashed them. It was a PITA, but worth it to me. This season we have had no additional damage - call it luck or elimination in the area - not one budworm.
I believe that budworms are becoming resistant to most insecticides as producers and greenhouses keep trying to prevent them from occurring on their saleable stock. Physical elimination works. If you have a ton of plants, well, keep chemically inducing them...if you have to. Otherwise, change plant varieties.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 9:56PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

johnsaunt, these caterpillars turn into rather plain looking tan colored moths. If beauty is your main criterion for sparing them, then they get the ax. However, the adults are also nectar feeders, which means that they perform duties as pollinators. Some moths and butterflies feed on nothing at all in their brief adult stage. These guys do.

Personally, I'd squish every caterpillar that I could find. They are capable of doing considerable damage. I'd avoid traditional chemical control, however, as there are tiny beneficial wasps that will parasitize the larvae. Use the Bacillus products whenever necessary.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 11:50AM
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honeybucket(z 8)

Thanks to all you caring people. Since my original posting my research continues. This site may contain some information you may appreciate. Thanks again for your help!


    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 3:28PM
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I too have been battling these tobacco budworms on my petunias and zonal geraniums. I have tried BT and fertilome which I still am seeing them. I also have seen them on my daphne bush and on my honeysuckle plan. I am at my wits end.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2009 at 9:06PM
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There are some reports that indicate the Tobacco Budworm has developed resistance to Carbaryls so the person you talked with at your Home Depot is giving you bad information at best. The Bacillus thuringiensis - Kurstaki spray or dust is the best means of control, if done early in the life cycle of these pests.
The Carbaryls and organophosphates will also kill off any beneficials you have that could help control the Tobacco Budworm.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2009 at 6:58AM
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