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Sunday, December 2, 2001
Garden Life

How to counter insects
Satish Narula

STRANGE is the world of insects. They spell mixture of charm, beauty, and aesthetics as well as woes for gardeners. The fruit of a gardner’s labour is lost to these tiny creatures. It gives immense pleasure to see nature in the shape of a beautiful butterfly flitting around in the garden or some other beautiful spotted and coloured insects.

The little devouring devil: Lemon butterfly larva
The little devouring devil: Lemon butterfly larva

What is, however, in store is the surprise for the gardeners who suddenly find a well-nourished and satisfactorily-growing fruit damaged by insects. There may be complete loss of seedlings that are strangely cut near the ground level. Sometimes, the decline in plant is over the years, slowly and surely. This may be due to a certain virus that is spread by these carriers of nature.

A garden without a butterfly is no garden. But the gardener has to pay a heavy price in order to enjoy the beautiful sight. A butterfly becomes after going through stages of larva and pupa. It is the larva stage that is the most damaging. The larvae devour plants profusely, eating the leaves of the tender plants. Take the example of lemon butterfly. You can recognise it by its big size and green wings with yellow spots. The full-grown larva would finish a full grown leaf in a matter of five minutes.

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Since the art of camouflage is the biggest asset of these devouring devils, they utilise it to there advantage. After the young ones emerge from singly laid, cream yellow tiny eggs, they look sluggish, shiny glistening drop of bird. Their colour is, deep green with small white streaks, exactly like birds’ excreta. The birds however, do not eat their own excreta. They escape. Over a period of time, extending to a few weeks, these insects develop into green larvae nearly an inch or so long. These are heavy feeders. Come near them, and they throw out two red extensions from their head which — even though they are harmless — are dreaded repulsive. You may also confront an offensive odour. In case of young plants where you find leaves half-eaten, you can look for these larvae or else look near the base of the plant.

You may find their excreta as small identical granules spread on the ground, a sure sign of their presence on the plant. The rest depends upon your observation and skill in eliminating them preferably physical or by chemical means. To control it chemically, spray Sevin at two-and-a-half gm to a litre of water or Rogor at one millilitre to one litre of water. Repeat the spray after a fortnight.

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