Eric Carle’s “A Very Hungry Caterpillar” was a staple of my childhood. I loved the colorful illustrations and the little holes in the food items that the cute little, green caterpillar ate… but was still hungry.
Well, now that I am older, I know there are always two sides to every story.
And now that I am a gardener, I know that caterpillar was a pain in the ass.
About ten days ago, I noticed that my broccoli leaves had multiple holes in them and were not looking so great.
I showed the damage to Adam and he noticed tiny, green caterpillars on the leaves. They were so small and nearly the same color green as the leaf so it’s no wonder I missed them at my first glance.
We went inside to determine what they heck was going on. Adam looked up from Google and said, “They are cabbage loopers.”
“Okay, what do they do?” I asked.
“Eat the shit out of your plants,” he bluntly stated as his wide eyes scrolled image after image of damage these little buggers created.
And they did.
The following morning it was ten times worse so I knew something needed to be done. I talked to a couple neighbors and they both (very ominously…) said, “Ohh. You going to need to get some Sevin.”
I looked up Sevin online-which I learned is not spelled like the number- and found plenty of information that made me realize this was not the product I wanted to use.
Directions for application instructed one to wear long sleeves, eye protection and a face mask to prevent breathing in the chemical. It also said to ensure that pets would not come in contact with the plants.
… And I was going to put this on something I was planning on eating? I don’t think so.
(I also read that it kills bees. I like bees. Bees are important… more on that later.)
So then I used searches like “eco-friendly” or “organic” removal/control of loopers.
A site said just to remove the loopers from the leaves and step on them.
Well… this worked for about, oh… let’s see… ten minutes. They blend in with the big green broccoli leaves so well it was like your eyes would play tricks on you. There were tons. Not to mention, it was hot. And the wormies were nasty. This method made Sevin sound pretty good.
So, back to the search engines. The chemical Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (BTK) was recommended and used by many organic gardeners. Even with the use of BTK the produce is still considered organic.
I had to hunt a bit for this chemical, but finally found it at a home improvement store. It was made by a company called Garden Safe and was even labeled for Organic Gardening. Less than ten bucks later I was on my way home and the looper’s days were numbered.
The chemical was in concentrate form so I combined with water in a spray bottle. I spritz the solution on to the leaves and their undersides.
That was ten days ago and we have not seen a looper since.
So, in the end of this bedtime story, the very hungry caterpillar died. But, the very savvy gardener was able to pull three great looking broccoli heads from her garden this evening.