The danger your plants run with caterpillars

THE DANGEROUS CATERPILLARS THAT FEED ON YOUR PLANTS

The more intensive the crops are made (higher production, larger size and use), the more shaking pests and diseases hit the plants. In this case, we are going to comment on some things that we consider interesting about caterpillars. They do nothing more than bite and bite the leaves of plants and fruits, reducing their ability to grow and develop. Today, at Gardenprue, we put the brakes on the caterpillars.

A caterpillar is as hungry as a teenager when he comes home to party.

We can find that, overnight, our crops show defoliation, leaves with holes, bites on the edges. Surely it is the happy caterpillars. In a matter of 48 hours, a crop can be affected to the point of reducing the photosynthetic capacity of the plant.

WHERE DO CATERPILLARS COME FROM?

To talk about caterpillars we have to mention the order of Lepidoptera . Basically, the first thing that would come to mind would be butterflies (and yet they are the most harmless …). The larvae are what can really worry us, since they are very gluttonous and can go unnoticed before damage due to the fact that their feeding is usually nocturnal .

Of course, as the lepidopteran order is very broad (much more than we can imagine), we have to break it down a bit more, especially from the point of view of agriculture.

One of the families within the Lepidoptera that usually have great importance in the agricultural panorama are the noctuids  ( Noctuidae ). They are nocturnal butterflies whose larvae feed on leaves, fruits and whole plants.

NOTABLE CHARACTERISTICS OF NOCTUID CATERPILLARS

  • Very polyphagous insects. They feed on almost all varieties of herbaceous plants.
  • They usually appear gregarious. That is, they attack in groups and form communities.
  • Many larvae only attack at night, so they go unnoticed by the farmer.

HOW DO WE DIVIDE THE TYPES OF CATERPILLARS ACCORDING TO THEIR DIET OR HABIT?

Although the best identification is to see the caterpillar directly, we can also reach conclusions by seeing the attacked parts.

GUSANOS GREASES ( AGROTIS SEGETUM, AGROTIS IPSILON, AGROTIS EXCLAMATIONIS )

These types of caterpillars can reach 5 cm in length and roll easily with minimal contact. They are usually gray in color (logical, if they are gray worms 🙂), and they usually attack young plants, both on the neck and on the leaves.

Agrotis ipsilon. Source: forestryimages

What attacks? It usually goes for the neck of the plant, so you can dry it in a plis-plas. His gluttony then forces him to search for the next plant and attack the next plant.

GREEN DONUT SPODOPTERA EXIGUA )

They tend to act gregariously and feed mainly on leaves. We can see it regularly on cucurbits (melon and watermelon) and on nightshades (pepper, tomato, etc.).

Its predominant color is green, although we can see shapes with brown colors.

Spodoptera exigua. Source: nbaii

What attacks? Although it has a preference for the leaves of young plants, it can also attack the fruits, as has been seen in numerous greens in the cultivation of cucurbits .

 HELIOTHIS (HELICOVERPA ARMÍGERA)

It is a very characteristic caterpillar because of the rings that its body forms and because of its color. It usually reaches 4 cm in length, so its diet is quite “aggressive”.

Heliothis has a special predilection for green fruits. It excavates a gallery and goes inside, most of the time close to the peduncle of the fruit. The fruits become useless in a short time.

Helicoverpa armigera . Photography: Lymantria

What attacks? Fruits, in general.  However, do not neglect it, since it can also feed on the leaves of the plant.

 TOMATO MOTH ( TUTA ABSOLU )

This caterpillar does not belong to the noctuida family but to the Gelechiidae . Therefore, it presents some different characteristics with respect to the rest of caterpillars. In general, they are usually smaller in size. 

There are a few things to keep in mind about the tomato moth or caterpillar. It has a high reproductive power (up to 12 generations per year) and the large number of eggs that the female can lay during her reproductive stage.

Tuta absolut  damage on tomato. Source: tutaabsoluta

Another thing that makes farmers fear too? That in winter does not rest … 🙁

The state of the tomato does not matter, as it attacks all forms of the fruit and leaves, which usually undermine them (that is why it is also known as a tomato miner ).

On the fruits creates perforations and galleries that reduce the value and quality of the fruit. On many occasions they prevent its sale or transform its flavor. If the infestation is large, it can kill the crop.

One last thing…

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CATERPILLARS AND WORMS?

They are apparently the same, but they are not. What are their differences?

If we pull definitions, a caterpillar is a worm but a worm is not a caterpillar. The Royal Spanish Academy defines worms as vermiform larvae , including Lepidoptera. Therefore, caterpillars must be included.

An earthworm, like the ones we use when creating vermicompost, is a worm.

Now, a caterpillar is exclusively a lepidopteran, it has 12 rings and has a chewing device with which it gnaws or bites crops, as we have seen.

A worm is going to be a worm all its life. However, a caterpillar is a state prior to a flying state, like the butterfly or the moth.

Watch out for the caterpillars!

Welcome to The GardenPure! My name is Ryan Heagle, and I’m the founder of The GardenPure, I spent the first part of my adult life teaching and then living in Australia in various business ventures, the first of which was a business devoted to the sale of house plants.  I am now a full time blogger. I am a self taught gardener.

Ryan Heagle

Welcome to The GardenPure! My name is Ryan Heagle, and I’m the founder of The GardenPure, I spent the first part of my adult life teaching and then living in Australia in various business ventures, the first of which was a business devoted to the sale of house plants.  I am now a full time blogger. I am a self taught gardener.

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