Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Oy! Gerroff me geraniums!

Would you just look at this?


This has been going on for a month now, and at first I put it down to a bit of frost damage - this is Geranium maderense, after all, I'm trying to coax it through the worst winter since I were a nipper, and despite the best efforts of my little fan heater it's still a bit parky in the greenhouse.

But then I arrive for a quick check round this morning and....


Now, I think to myself, if it weren't January and a foot deep in snow outside and minus 7 at night and generally BLOODY COLD I'd think that was caterpillar damage.

Nah.....

Oh yes it is. A closer inspection revealed a small but nonetheless inescapably green caterpillar munching away at my geraniums. Not just this one but also the overwintering pelargoniums which are losing their leaves not through the usual culprits of downy mildew plus a touch of the chills, but blimmin' cabbage white caterpillars. In winter! In a seriously cold, frosty winter!

With a yelp of horror and outrage I'm afraid I chucked the culprit out of the door into the snow in a fit of vindictiveness and it was pounced upon by the chicken so I don't have photographic proof, and you'll just have to take my word for it. A good hunt through has not revealed another one.... yet. But my dander is now up (whatever is a dander, do you think?) and I shall be inspecting with an eagle eye every morning from now on. I also crushed a couple of sleepy aphids and a blackfly while on patrol, so clearly letting your guard down on pest control isn't on the cards even in this weather. Is there no rest, I ask you?

Incidentally in case you're wondering what cabbage whites are doing eating geraniums: if they can't find cabbages then pelargoniums and geraniums are fair game for all the brassica caterpillars as I discovered a couple of years ago when a big brown caterpillar eating a client's pelargoniums was a cabbage moth caterpillar. So pelargoniums taste like cabbages. Apparently.

And here's a bit of advice: don't grow calabrese in your greenhouse. Even if you've grown too many seedlings, can't bear to throw them away and it's the only place you've got left. Especially in a record-breaking caterpillar year.

Harrumph.

5 comments:

Greenfingers said...

It's possible that this might have been a caterpillar of the geranium bronze butterfly, which has been accidentally introduced with imported Pelargonium plants - see http://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/species.php?species=marshalli

Ms B said...

I find caterpillar poo is the giveaway!

The Constant Gardener said...

wow I hope it is a geranium bronze butterfly. Though I have to say it does sound a bit exotic: and there is the incriminating evidence of an undeniably munched-half-to-death crop of calabrese earlier in the year right where the geraniums are now.

and Ms B: no caterpillar poo (there was on my calabrese earlier in the year though - yeuch...) but generally green wriggly caterpillars are a pretty good sign too I find ;D

elizabethm said...

Now that really isn't fair! I can just about cope with the constant depredations of wildlife in the summer but we are surely meant to have some respite in winter. Not right at all. Hope you have rescued in time. My greenhouse is so snowbound nothing would live in there just now, surrounded by three foot drifts.

The Constant Gardener said...

exactly Elizabeth! thank you for the sympathy :D

and hope your greenhouse defrosts soon...

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