Box Tree Moth Caterpillars!
Most of today passes perfectly pleasantly, it is dry and warm enough. My mission is to start planting and I start by weeding the two small lettuce beds which have chimney pots in the middle. I plant Cosmos Dazzler around the chimney pots, the same as last year because I loved it so much - this is a very tall Cosmos and it gave a fantastic display. I then planted the lettuces in a little pattern, because of their different leaf colour.
Considering the rain over the past two days, the soil feels 'bone' dry! I add compost before planting and water well. I then move to the onion beds which all need weeding. Firstly, I prepare a section for the spring onions, plant them out and continue weeding, this is a long job because it is fiddly weeding between the onions which are easy to disturb, again I notice the soil is dry and decide to water them. Something I noticed at Kew was that the tips of the leaves of their Alliums in their bedding displays were yellow , was this due to lack of rain, I've noticed some of my Alliums with similar symptoms and it was also evident in the garlic.
Whilst collecting the hosepipe I make a very unwelcome discovery. The corner of our main box tree hedge looked peculiar. It was already late, after 8pm, and the light was fading but I bent down for a closer look and I could see webbing and damaged foliage I start to run my fingers through the leaves and to my horror I pull out a box tree moth caterpillar! This area of hedge was the original starting point of the infestation last year and I realised with a sinking heart that this terrible pest is still with us. I have been checking the traps everyday and there has been no sign of moths but I now realise where did I expect the moths to come from? Presumably the eggs over winter, hatch out into caterpillars and from these come the first male moths which I am hoping to trap. Stupidly, I hadn't considered having caterpillars first... I feel very daunted at the prospect of trying to deal with this horrible pest and am very fearful of the consequences. I kneel by the hedge, pulling my hands over the stems, pulling away any caterpillars and cocoons. This is crude but I squash quite a few - horrible! Patrick walks around the hedge and only spots one other potential site which is not as bad and I repeat my 'squashing by hand' system over there. I then hose the areas vigorously and resolve to have a thorough check in the morning. I will spray the areas with the organic spray that was recommended last year and make sure the trap is well placed. I'm not sure what else I can do, my biggest concern is how much time trying to deal with this pest might take up. Last year I spent a lot of time spraying the hedge with a hose and this is time I can ill afford this year. It is a sobering thought that one tiny caterpillar can potentially defeat a human being and it reminds me that you can never take anything for granted, especially a box hedge!