It’s a bird-eat­cater­pil­lar world

The Southland Times - - Weekend -

Cabbage white but­ter­flies

With the warmer weather, white but­ter­flies will soon be hatch­ing and then lay­ing their dis­tinc­tive yel­low, bul­let-shaped eggs on the un­der­side of leaves – bras­si­cas are their favourite.

The en­su­ing green cater­pil­lars feed on the host plant usu­ally to its detri­ment. Young plants may die; ma­ture ones be­come weak­ened and sus­cep­ti­ble to other pests and dis­eases.

A ma­ture cater­pil­lar is about 2cm to 3cm long and roughly as thick as a pen­cil. Within a fort­night of spin­ning its chrysalis, it hatches into a but­ter­fly and the cy­cle con­tin­ues – up to three times a year in op­ti­mum con­di­tions.

To com­bat – at the but­ter­fly stage, cover bed with fine net­ting.

At the lar­vae stage, hand­pick­ing them off the un­der­sides of leaves is ef­fec­tive, but note they are of­ten hid­den along the ribs.

At the cater­pil­lar stage, flour sprin­kled over the plants ap­par­ently clogs and kill the lar­vae. An­other trick is to place a bird­bath in or near the cabbage patch to en­cour­age birds that like to eat the cater­pil­lars.


Straw­ber­ries are start­ing to flower. Keep them wa­tered and keep an eye out for slugs (and treat ac­cord­ing to your phi­los­o­phy). Hand-weed care­fully around plants as they have feed­ing roots which lie close to the soil sur­face.

Make small but suc­ces­sive sow­ings of let­tuce, radish and spring onions to en­sure con­ti­nu­ity of sup­ply – and avoid the glut or famine sce­nar­ios.

Other veg­eta­bles to be sown direct into the gar­den now in­clude beans, beet­root, peas and spinach.

Sow corn, cour­gettes and pump­kins un­der glass and they’ll be ready for trans­plant­ing out once the weather set­tles.


Re­move win­ter and spring an­nu­als af­ter flow­er­ing and pre­pare ground for sum­mer plants by re­mov­ing weeds and dig­ging in com­post. Don’t throw away spent polyan­thus and prim­roses. Di­vide them up into pieces as small as pos­si­ble – as long as each sec­tion has a root – and re­plant in a cooler, shady part of the gar­den where they will bulk up and flower again next win­ter.

Mulch around trees and shrubs – es­pe­cially young ones – in prepa­ra­tion for sum­mer. Mulch re­duces mois­ture loss from the soil and helps sup­press weeds. Com­post, pea straw, wood chips, lawn clip­pings, long grass clip­pings, chopped leaves, mush­room com­post, and well-rot­ted horse ma­nure are all suit­able.

Sow new lawns and make any re­pairs needed in old ones. Older lawns may need de-thatch­ing. A rake is per­fectly ad­e­quate for the job, but if the prob­lem is se­vere or the lawn large then use a de-thatch­ing ma­chine.

– Mary Lovell-Smith

Put a bird­bath near your cabbage patch and with luck, the birds will eat the pesky cater­pil­lars. Be­low: Straw­ber­ries are be­gin­ning to flower, so watch out for slugs.

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