Last summer on my terrace, bugs murdered a lovely, overflowing plant of geraniums — don’t ask me how — only days after I brought it home. I suspect budworms were the culprits since they immediately attacked my next pot of geraniums, subjecting it to a much slower death. First they gobbled up all the tiny flower buds, stealthily destroying them from the inside out. Next they stuffed themselves silly decimating every single geranium blossom, while simultaneously chowing down on the plant leaves, leaving behind only a few pathetic, stripped leaf skeletons.
Surrounded by numerous tall apartment houses with MANY windows, I had no doubt numerous neighbors had witnessed my ineptitude in the plant kingdom. Not looking forward to being dubbed the neighborhood plant killer, I prepared a three pronged attack for dealing with the pests this summer. Unfortunately my newest geranium purchase happened BEFORE my research, which informed me budworms had become such a raging scourge in the northeast, many gardeners have totally dispensed with growing the bug’s favorite targets — petunias and geraniums. Swell. Although the worms, which turn into large, fat green caterpillars, apparently also have the hots, though not so passionate, for plenty of other flower species too.
But this time when I purchased my new plant I had at least spoken to the grower about my pest problems. His solution? Beer. Works every time, he claimed. So following his advice, I placed a small shallow dish of beer in the planter on top of the soil. So far, at refilling time all I’ve seen in the dish are a dead fly, some unidentifiable fuzzy white things and small black streaks that could be either soil or extremely skinny budworm corpses.
If the beer fails to eradicate the budworms, my next move will be to concoct a “ruthless murder spray” of garlic, chili peppers, vegetable oil, detergent and water.
And if THAT odiferous brew fails to bring the budworms down, it will be on to Plan Three, which entails taking out my wallet and plunking down greenbacks for an organic pesticide called BT. As it happens, this product also has its tricky side. More than just whiffing the BT spray, the bugs must actually eat the stuff. So it must be applied early, before the budworms begin their drilling-and-disappearing-into-the-flower-buds routine.
And how’s your bug situation these days? Dealt with any troublesome critters of your own this summer?