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Perennials/Bourganvilla pests


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I have 2 bourganvillas that are being eaten alive.  In the last week they have lost so many leaves.  There is a black substance that looks like droppings.  As you can see from the attached pictures, the leaves are covered with whatever this substance is.  What kind of pest is it and how do I get rid of it.

Thank you in advance.  I need help as soon as possible.

Good morning Mary,

Yes, what you are experiencing is very distressing.

You appear to have more than one condition affecting your plants. Thank you for the excellent pictures. They are extremely helpful.

I think that you have been invaded by the bougainvillea looper caterpillar. Newly hatched ones eat your foliage, the new foliage first, and then move to the older. The waste speckled leaves in picture number 2 are their trademark.

This is easy. Have you heard of spinosad? It is a new controller of insects that is actually organic, since it is derived from a fermented bacterium. It is sold as Monterey Garden Spray. I use it. It works. You should put in on at night so that bees are safeguarded, and you need to apply it several days in a row but it will stop the chewing.

Your local garden store or hardware store with a garden section will certainly stock it. You can buy it in concentrate form and use an inexpensive spray bottle (also at your garden center or hardware store).

Spinosad also controls chewing, so it should work on picture number one. I am not quite certain what is doing the chewing, but the spinosad should help. Remember, you need to use it for at least three days in a row. I would recommend five. It will not harm you, but do apply it after the bees have gone home for the day. Apply it to both the tops and bottoms of your plants.

I also think that you may have some scale. Horticultural oil will help. It will smother anything on your plants. Track down some all season horticultural oil and spray your plants. Make sure you do not use dormant oil, which is too heavy. And please do not apply it if the temperatures are over 80 degrees. And again, apply to the tops and bottoms of your plants.

These two things combined should prevent any further damage and allow your plants to regrow. But if you are still experiencing further damage in about five days, PLEASE write again.

Best wishes,



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Donna Mack


I am a Master Gardener through the University of Illinois Extension.I can answer questions about pest control, especially voles, rabbits, chipmunks and slugs, and have done so on Dave's Garden Watchdog under the name DonnaMack since 2002. I have a lot of expertise with ornamental grass, hardy roses and old garden roses, minor bulbs such as ornigothalem, chionodoxa and allium as well as most types of lilies. I am knowledgeable about organic methods and I grow perennials, annuals and vegetables from seed.


I have been gardening since 1998 and have raised roses, peonies, annuals and perennials (the latter two from seed), and numerous shrubs and trees, many of which I have planted. I am familiar with many organic techniques and use as many as I can but know the chemical solutions, which are most benign and how to use them. I LOVE gardening, and I get great satisfaction with helping others so that they reach the state of joy that gardening can bring to those inclined to it.

The American Lily Society

I have numerous entries in Garden Watchdog under the name DonnaMack. I write three to four columns a year for the Kane County Chronicle.

I successfully completed the University of Illinois Master Gardening Program in March of 2013. I did this to augment extensive self study through books (I've probably read 100) and an arts degree, which helps with aesthetics. I am purely an amateur, but one who studies, reads, and documents extensively. My gardening log began in 2000, and has hundreds of entries, so that I can use my successes and failures to assist other gardeners.

Awards and Honors
The University of Illinois created a Team with Work Award for master gardeners who work together to create what they regard as an outstanding project. I won this award as part of a group that created "The Idea Garden", which suggests plants for home growers to attempt to grow. My personal contribution was salvias - ornamental and culinary hardy and tender perennials, which I grew from seed and tended through the season.

Past/Present Clients
I am currently overseeing and performing the maintenance of two large English style gardens in a suburb of Chicago, and recently acquired the management and redesign of a large estate garden(2015.)

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