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Annuals/Putunia black spots and hornworm caterpillar moth

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Question
hornworm caterpillar moth
hornworm caterpillar m  
I read your answer to a question about black spots and hole in my petunia buds. Is this the moth in question ? if so how do I get rid of the black spot and help my petunias be beautiful again. My petunia garden is under my willow tree could this be causing the problem?

Answer
I don't have the answer you read, but let's talk about Hornworm Caterpillars, which morph into Sphinx Moths in maturity.

There's an important concept that I think gets overlooked when people talk about good bugs and bad bugs.  Of course anything that likes to make mincemeat out of your Petunias is considered a bad bug.  You didn't buy those flowers to feed the insects.  You bought them to keep America beautiful, and the bugs are ruining everything.

But read this:

http://acharlottegarden.blogspot.com/2011/07/hornworm.html

Charlotte's message is that the beneficial, flower-friendly "good bugs" -- usually carniverous insects -- won't thrive if they don't have bad bugs.  They get hungry.  So on the bright side is the fact that those Hornworm Caterpillars may potentially be dinner for a hungry Hornworm-loving beneficial bug.

If you run around with RoundUp or bug spray or anything toxic, you are going to kill every bug in the garden that gets hit with the chemical.  So it is good to have those beneficial insects to keep the bag bugs under control.  Just don't expect perfection.

When you see the pickled Petunia leaves it's often because females are attracted to the strong fragrance of the Petunias that pours out of the flowers in the dark after the sun goes down.  They lay their eggs on the leaves of plants in the nightshade family -- Tomatoes, Nicotiana, Potatoes and Petunias, among others.

Note that these are often confused with damage caused by Potato Flea Beetles, Epitrix cucumeris, which attack the same plants.

The Poplar Sphinx moth, Pachysphinx occidentalis, makes it home in Willows, but they would not enjoy eating Petunias.

If this was my problem, I would head over to Hicks and get some Ladybugs out of the refrigerator one week, put out some Praying Mantis eggs and get this under control.  They overwinter easily and it would be nice not to have them around next year.

Then, next spring, be vigilant.  This is not difficult.  But it takes diligence.

THE LONG ISLAND GARDENER

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Decisions, decisions... If you can't make up your mind which Annuals to grow, you're not alone. Problem with your new flowering Annuals flats? I`ve been there, done that. Petunias, Sweet Alyssum, Larkspur, Marine Blue Lobelia -- they all grow here at my house on Garden Street on Long Island, N.Y.. Cutting and Cottage Gardens, Sun and Shade Gardens, White Gardens and Night Gardens, I`ve done them all. Annuals are the perfect summer flower, bursting with color June through fall's first frost. I can`t speak on Cactus or tender Tropical Plants -- they don`t grow outside in my Zone 7. I`m no Farmer, so I cannot guide you on Fruits and Vegetables. But whether it`s an Annual you want to start from seed, mail-order or pick up at your local garden center, I can help you grow amazing blooms this Summer. Yes, together, we can turn your neighbors green with envy.

Experience

I have a lifetime of gardening behind me here on the North Shore of Long Island. While I have degrees in related fields, there's nothing like hands-on work to build real knowledge. I stay on top of current science -- there's a boom in research, and Kingdom Plantae is filled with surprises. By the way, I really do live on Garden Street.

Publications
Gannett newspapers, The New York Times, and hundreds of others - but not on Annuals.

Education/Credentials
B.A., botany; graduate credits in European Intellectual History and Political Science; minor coursework in related fields, docent training at our local botanical gardens (required for volunteers). I'm currently working on an advanced biochemistry degree.

Awards and Honors
I could tell you, but then you'd know who I am.

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