Lily caterpillars are a native pest common along the east coast of Australia but can be seen in other regions. Young caterpillars skeletonise leaves while older ones can strip leaves or attack the crown of the plant. Very quickly plants are an ugly mess of caterpillars, droppings and collapsing plant foliage. Attacked foliage dies and leaves the plants looking very unsightly.
The adult moth has a wingspan approximately 5cm across and lays eggs in clusters on susceptible plants. The caterpillar grows up to 5cm long and is a black and mottled grey colour. They have several distinctive yellow and/or white stripes running length ways down their body.
Caterpillars pupate in leaf litter or the soil before emerging as adult moths to start the cycle again. There are several generations a year with the most damage noticed during the warmer months.
Damage caused by the lily caterpillar is severe and can result in plant death. Plants which survive usually take a long time to recover
They attack clivea, crinums, hippeastrums, the spider lily (hymenocallis) and other plants in the lily family.
Organic Control Methods for Lily Caterpillars
As eggs are laid in clusters there will always be a group of caterpillars to control and you should act quickly as these guys are very hungry:
- spray plants thoroughly with eco-neem which is excellent for caterpillar control. Caterpillars will cease feeding immediately but may take a couple of days to die.
- you can try hand picking and squashing the caterpillars but it is hard to get them all so you’ll need to check the plants multiple times.
Trim away badly damaged leaves to make the plant look a bit better and feed weekly with a solution of eco-seaweed and eco-aminogro. This will help the plant cope with the stress of the attack and to commence new growth.