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Friday - August 22, 2008

From: Old Hickory, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Insect pests in Gaillardia aristata in Tennessee
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have a couple of 'Oranges and Lemons' blanketflower plants in a butterfly and hummingbird native flower garden that is the foundation planting of my house. They bloom prolifically for me all summer and well into the fall, and seem to be quite popular with the butterflies. However, this year and last year they have been severly damaged by what I am pretty sure are leaf miners. The leaves now have significantly more white/pale yellow than green, and the white areas are very papery, thin, and almost see-through. Also, many of the badly damaged leaves burn, and completely shrivel up. By the end of the summer they start to look very raggedy, although the continued blooms are still very nice and drawing butterflies. What, if anything, can I do to prevent this damage without harming the butterflies? I saw a systemic granule that is supposed to protect against leaf miners - but it is harmful to caterpillars. Do any butterflies or moths use the blanketflower as a larval food? Would the systemic make the nectar poisonous as well? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

ANSWER:

Gaillardia aristata (common gaillardia) is not distributed naturally in Tennessee, but is easily spread by cultivation. The "Oranges and Lemons" is no doubt a trade name, possibly for some color selection, of the blanketflower.

From your description, it appears you are correct that a leafminer is causing the damage to the leaves on your plants. More specifically, we believe the culprit is the Blotch Leafminer, named for the appearance of the tunnels made by the larvae in the leaves. Some of the main hosts of the Blotch Leafminer are members of the Asteraceae family, including Gaillardia. Heavy infestations may kill some leaves, but most damage is simply aesthetic.

There is a biological control of these pests, in the form of a number of parasitic wasps that attack leafminers. We urge you to avoid chemical controls, as they would not only take out the parasitic wasps that help control the leafminers, but also be damaging to other beneficial insects, and certainly to the butterflies and bees you are hoping to attract. Good cultural practices in your garden, good drainage and removing damaged leaves and destroying them, will also help to discourage the leafminers.

 

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