There’s this story going around that there’s only a month or so left to go of summer before it fades to autumn. Well that’s handy as I was starting to tire of the endless heat haze and Long Island iced teas.

No? Well, if reality has to get dragged into it, who else here has been casually eyeing up the cosy knits heap at the bottom of the wardrobe, or maybe even sneaking on the central heating?

Just for fun, here’s a definition of Beaufort Wind Scale 7:

‘High wind, moderate gale, near gale … whole trees in motion, inconvenience felt when walking against the wind.’

A few days ago these were the outdoor conditions here; the obvious time to finally sort out the caterpillars cheerfully laying waste to the veg growing in various pots on the patio.  Sprouting broccoli, by now gone over anyway so no real loss, but more importantly the clutch of sprouts intended for Christmas, and which had been grown from seed.  All under attack from the young of the Large Cabbage White.

So, head bent into the wind and with grim determination, the Eviction of the Caterpillars commenced.

Some things I learned:

They like hanging around in packs. I say ‘packs’, apparently the proper collective noun for a group of caterpillars is an army.   That kind of sounds wrong though, too overblown.   They’re actually more like those groups of teenagers you sometimes get around bus stops.  All faux-swagger, but basically a bit timid under it all and preferring safety in numbers.  So, maybe it should be a skulk of caterpillars.

Whatever, as with any skulking teens, they had to move on. This would have happened a lot faster had I known the next bit.

Now, all over the munched sprout leaves were these odd, tiny clumps of mushy green, well, ‘stuff’.  Look again at the first picture above. There it is, all around the stem.  Turns out, somewhat grossly, this is actually caterpillar vomit. The semi-regurgitated leavings of the plants they have been nibbling away at.  Sorry to make you choke on your Long Island iced tea, but there we have it.

Apparently they do this when they are being predated to put off whatever is trying to eat them, according to those in the know at the National Geographic.  Kind of glad I hosed the plant off afterwards.

So, caterpillars despatched to the compost bin together with all ravaged leaves and spent broccoli, losses were cut.  Might still get at least a small handful of sprouts for Christmas, which is all anyone wants anyway.

 

Also this week, wasps claimed the remaining super-ripe Victoria plums for themselves, eating them practically down to the stones. For some reason, I didn’t fancy getting quite so hands-on with the wasps, so left them alone to get on with it.

All of which brings us to the question of pest control. Having always opted for non-chemical means of control for anything grown to be eaten, it does seem we’ve only ever done this in an ad-hoc way, after damage has been done.  Maybe there is a better, preventative approach?

I’m not talking about anything too labour- or time-intensive though. What quick, nifty tricks are there?  Wasp traps are one way I’ve spotted, not that I’ve used these (they look a bit grisly).

I suspect some cold hard cash will have to spent on proper kit to keep the pests off such as netting.

What are your secret tricks and shortcuts?  Oh, and if it’s budget-friendly, we’ll love you forever.  The pests, not so much.

Comment below and share your experiences…

Alison Hooper
I've lived in various places from freezing flats in Manchester with just enough room to swing a pot rubber plant, to a Leicester semi which must have held some kind of local record for most concrete used in the garden. That took some digging out. Now living in Market Harborough with husband Matt and two young daughters. And a cat who shows up for mealtimes. Gardening neophyte, learning always.

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