Monday, 29 April 2013

Beauty and the Brithys

There is always a price to pay for beauty...

If your name is Lily, or Aggie, or you go by the name of Amaryllis, or even Clivia, you'll know what I'm taking about. You may not have many enemies, but one of your worst foes is the beautiful-sounding Lily Borer...AKA Crinum borer, Brithys pancratii, or Amaryllis Caterpillar.

I've just finished a garden a few months ago, and having planted several types of rare bulbs, I was keen to see how they were doing. After visiting recently I was upset to find that this voracious little caterpillar was wreaking havoc on several different species of plants in the garden.
Eggs of Brithys pancratii
The moth lays its eggs, usually in clusters on the underside of the leaves.

This is why its sometimes called the Lily Borer
The larvae hatch, and bore into the soft fleshy leaves, often munching their way all the way down into the bulb.
The markings warn any potential predators that it is poisonous
I'm usually a firm believer in letting nature take its course, but sometimes something has to be done. Especially when the life of the plant is at stake.

The caterpillars usually recur regularly throughout the warmer months and less often in winter.  A pyrethroid-based insecticide sprayed onto the caterpillars usually does the trick in killing them - but it necessitates early spotting.

If I don't catch them early enough on plants like agapanthus, I will often take the drastic step of cutting back and destroying the leaves to prevent them from boring into the heart of the plant.
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