If you have the budworm caterpillar (or tobacco budworm) attacking your geraniums or petunias, you’ll notice it now, in July. Here are some symptoms that will lead you to the conclusion of budworm infestation:

1. Budworm poop (small black dots, the size of a pencil lead)
2. Chewed foliage
3. Lack of flowers – what once was a beautiful plant full of color has become a drab plant with a few blooms.
4. Sexual organs chewed out of the flower- What?? A flower has a female part- the ovary and a male part- the stigma. There must be a lot of protein in these because that is what they go for first.
5. Small green or translucent caterpillars-or they could be the color of the flower they are gorging on! Good luck finding these, but if you really want to search look early in the morning on the plant. During the day they usually hide down low near the soil.

Sad looking pink flowers

Petunias in August, ravaged by budworm caterpillar


You might be tricked into thinking the plants need more water, or they need more nourishment (fertilizer). And, maybe that is the problem, but, if you

See these previous posts for more info and pictures: http://vickisgardentips.com/?p=569 "Petunias-I am reminded again why I don't plant these"
http://vickisgardentips.com/?p=583 "More on Petunias and Budworm" This article shows photos of what your blooms will look like when the nasty caterpillar has removed the good parts of the flower.

Petunia with evidence of budworm

Here you can see where the budworm entered the petunia, where he had some lunch before moving on.

TREATMENT:
1. Bt sprays (Bacillus Thuringiensis) a soil borne bacterium. Spray every 3-4 weeks. This will control the caterpillars without harming the beneficial insects including bees!
2. Stop growing geraniums and petunias! (which are most susceptible)
3. Hand pick the worms daily.

Beware, these will overwinter in the soil and reappear next year.