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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - October 12, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Green worms on salvias
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I recently bought a "salvia blue chiquita." Some leaves were yellowing, but full of flowers and still attractive. Have had it on my deck for less than a week and have found 2 tiny greenish "worms" (caterpillars?) wound around stems. Can't find more than these two, but more and more holes appearing and now my Salvia Mexicana also has some holes in a few leaves. Is it the worms? How do I get rid of them? Thanks!

ANSWER:

Even if we were entomologists (not!) the description you gave probably wouldn't help us identify your creepy crawly. If you can find teeny tiny legs, they're caterpillars, and therefore the larvae of some flying insect, maybe a butterfly, maybe a moth. No legs, they're worms. Either way, they no doubt hitch hiked into your garden from the nursery where you purchased your plants. And it sounds like they've moved into another plant. We're pretty sure they are the source of the holes in your plant. Before you do anything drastic, try this: Either get a small size of Safer insecticide, dilute it, and spray onto your plants. Or, make a weak solution of dishwashing detergent and water and try that. Although the Safer will certainly kill some insects, one of its values is that lots of insects can't hold onto a soapy twig and slither off. If that doesn't work, see this article from the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times The Best Caterpillar Control. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center recommends neither for nor against pesticides, but do recommend minimum impact on the environment. If you still don't feel you have the problem under control, contact the Travis County Extension Office; they may already have experience with your pest and know immediately what to do about it. 

 

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