Brisbane Local Food

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WHAT TO DO!!!! My garden is currently overrun by these devouring little critters. Seriously, they eat EVERYTHING. My front flower and herb garden has been completely destroyed by them, they even eat Parsley and Basil for crying out loud!! Forget about trying to get new seedlings to grow, they move in overnight and I come out and there is nothing but stumps left. They are even eating Beans!!! and no, its not rats because I have gone out there early in the morning and seen them devouring my beans. Help please.

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Comment by Scarlett on November 23, 2010 at 23:01
hmm. i wonder which ones they are. can you put a photo up?
different caterpillars imply different management strategies.
for short term control, either squish them, put them in a spray bottle and spray on the plants you wish to protect, or break out the dipel - Bacillus thuringiensis - which is a stomach bacteria specific to caterpillars. Available nursery supplies. Is approved (biocide) for use in organic gardening.

Or just outgrow them - hopefully you'll only get the one flush and they'll be gone soon. Work out where they're coming from (annual cycle with a nearby native plant perhaps? maybe try spray the plants at egg laying stage next year?) and attempt to head them off at the pass next time. if they are those ones that mass at the bottom of wattles and gums then go on the march you can watch the natives and get them before the maraud.
Comment by Donna on November 22, 2010 at 14:11
Oh, there's another one too that it might be - known as 'Hairy Mary':

http://www.brisbaneinsects.com/brisbane_moths/HairyMary.htm
Comment by Donna on November 22, 2010 at 14:09
Hmm, that's what I thought... they usually only feed on native trees. Not sure why they would suddenly start attacking your veggie garden - have you cut down any native tree/ shrub lately?

http://lepidoptera.butterflyhouse.com.au/noto/lunifer.html

And on another site, might be worth doing a quick cover crop as suggested by Elaine:

http://medent.usyd.edu.au/fact/caterpillars.htm
Most caterpillar infestations are usually short lived and should be left undisturbed, unless they are causing a problem, when intervention by a reputable pest control officer would be recommended. Many infestations will die out either through predation or when all food sources are exhausted. However, some preventative control measures should remain in place to guard against Mistletoe browntail infestations especially in or near school yards. The removal of all mistletoe from Eucalypt trees within school yards or nearby areas before spring will prevent colonisation. Bare soil or mulching with pebbles at the base of existing eucalypt trunks will help deter pupation and resting of the caterpillar stage. Planting tree species that do not attract infestations, when shade is required in school yards or backyards, is another means of avoiding the problem.
Comment by Elaine de Saxe on November 22, 2010 at 13:29
Susan you may not be keen on my prescription but I believe your garden will be the better for it in the long run ...

You can kill the caterpillars but unless you can change what has attracted them, they will return and your plants will be just the same as they were when the caterpillars were attracted to the plants.

My suggestion is to chop down everything you have growing and compost it. Leave the roots in the soil. If you can't or don't want to compost, toss the lot into the rubbish bin.

Add whatever you can get of these fertilisers: mushroom compost, composted animal manure, Organic Xtra, Searle's 5 in 1 and probably the best of all is worm castings. Put a cover crop on and once the cover crop is up and growing well, cut them all down then mulch. Wait until end of summer when everything is rotting nicely and your soil is a good dark colour and fluffy then you can think about planting for autumn.

So how much of everything? Moot point but if using worm castings then 2 to 3 kilos per square metre. Other items you would use a bit more. Follow directions on the Organic Xtra packet. No one fertiliser is necessarily better than another and availability and price often determine what you use.

Cover crop is any seeds you've got hanging about that will come up quickly or a simple solution is to buy a kilo or two of birdseed - any kind. Sow thickly, water well in (that is after you've chopped everything down) and await results. Use seaweed or worm juice in your water, it is a good soil tonic for the micro-organisms.

Soil preparation and soil fertility are the key to healthy crops. There are so many ideas out there it is more a matter of what grabs you and what you can physically do. Search this forum with 'cover crops' and you will find more talk about making the soil rich and ready to plant veges in.
Comment by Susan on November 22, 2010 at 12:31
If it were just 1 or 2 I would be ok. Mum and I picked 30!!!! of them off my 1 parsley bush. By the afternoon, another 20 were there. I've just recently found them on my carrots, eating whatever is exposed at the top. I'm going to try to put milk bottles around my seeds for a while and see if that helps. Does anyone know what kind of moth/butterfly they are?
Comment by Joanne Chung on November 22, 2010 at 10:12
I saw 2 yesterday in my new raised bed amongst my new seedling.. I pick them up with a stick and feed them to the chooks..
Comment by Nancy Kent on November 22, 2010 at 9:56
Wondering where your property is and how much I need to be on guard for these critters.
Comment by Donna on November 21, 2010 at 12:07
Oh no, that's terrible! I don't know how you can stop them, but if they are the ones I am thinking about you have to be very careful as people can have very bad allergic reactions to them.

It might be worth trying a chilli/ garlic/ molasses spray on the plants to make them taste bitter which sometimes can help with chewing pests...

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