budworm-verbena

Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

In passed summers I have lost countless battles with budworms as they happily gorged themselves silly on my geraniums and petunias.  As tiny, newborn worms, they stealthily bored into tender, young flower buds and ate their way out, speedily decimating every bud in flowerpots. Fatter and feistier, they then feasted on every blossom in sight. And when THOSE were chomped up, it was on to the leaves, which they carved up into clumps of dried out, Swiss cheese. (Budworm info in detail.)

 Along the way, I tried every Internet remedy to fight the voracious little monsters except poisonous insecticides. (These can be tricky. The budworms have to actually lap up the newly sprayed stuff, a toughie when you’re deeply concealed in thickly wrapped flower buds). Instead I sprayed the petunias and geraniums with soapsuds, coated them with vegetable oil, sprinkled them with onion powder, peppered them with chilies, planted smelly garlic in their soil and offered them beer and tobacco juice. All of which gave them a big laugh as they went on their merry rounds  destroying all my flowers.

Last summer I finally admitted defeat and forever banished petunias and geraniums from my garden. After scrubbing my flowerpots clean of the previous year’s soil, I gave some dahlias a whirl. For awhile they flourished. In fact for more than a while. But late in the summer, guess what appeared on my dahlia leaves? Yep. The budworms were back. (A master gardener writes about bad bug, budworms.)

So this year dahlias too were out. Yesterday I hit the downtown farmer’s market.  Extremely busy lately with a large project, I only had time for some fast web research prior to my flower selection. Not surprisingly, many of the market people who sold the flowers acted as though they have never even HEARD of budworms.  Others claimed their plants NEVER attracted budworms. And still others were as mystified as I about what plant species to try next.

Looking over some lovely verbena plants, about which I knew exactly zero, I noted they had very tiny flower buds, skimpy pickings, it seemed to me, for budworm’s fierce appetites. Deciding that verbena’s small delicate blooms would be far less appealing to budworms than chubbier petunia, geranium and dahlia blooms; I purchased some cheery pink verbena plants.

When I got home, I then made the mistake of searching for “verbena budworms” on the web. Almost instantly, the woeful picture you see above popped up. Are no flowers safe from this crawly scourge?

And so my quest for budworm-free flowers continues…

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