Saturday, October 10, 2009

Arch Nemesis

Here it is... my current arch nemesis. And I have no idea what it is. This is what I think has killed 2 orange trees in the last 3 weeks and is still working on our 3 remaining citrus. But I could be wrong. I've been battling this "thing" all summer, clipping off the affected leaves and spraying with soapy water and neem oil once a week. But I always seemed to be clipping off more than was growing. A couple weeks off this regimine proved fatal. I've searched online, in books, every book that is supposedly an expert on citrus and have gotten no answers. I've seen this wormy thing on leaves before, usually only one and that's rare. And they're not hard to spot. Yet citrus leaves show up paled, curled, wrinkled with black leaf-miner like trails all through them even on trees where this worm isn't found for weeks or ever. I'm stuck. I don't know what to do. I've been so frustrated with the growth rate on our citrus trees already before this attack that I'm close to ripping them all out and planting our entire back yard in figs instead. The chickens didn't even want to eat this sucker... it looked just like their poop! Hubby squished it in the chicken pen to prevent it from escaping should it be the cause of all our citrus woes.


  1. I kept ignoring them on my citrus trees cause I thought they were bird poop. Then it moved!

    They must grow quickly cause I find one or two at a time and they are very small but they must grow quickly. I think they must be like horn worms on tomato plants. They just eat and grow.

  2. Its the young swallowtail caterpillars. They turn into butterflies. They love citrus trees.

  3. Your trees can live just fine with those caterpillars on them. The caterpillars just eat the leaves but I have never ever heard of them killing a tree. We have them in our citrus and just let them do their thing. They become the most beautiful butterflies.

    I know it is the normal first reaction to kill whatever is unfamiliar to us...but, if you can, try to do an online search before you kill something in the garden, you never know when you might be killing something good. In this case if you Googled something like "Brown caterpillar on citrus tree" I am positive that the right photo would come up (just choose the "images" tab on Google).

    Good luck and I hope you get to see some of the butterflies in the spring!

  4. I was Google'ing the curl in my citrus trees and found this post. It broke my heart, we have two lime trees BECAUSE of this caterpillar! It's a host for this butterfly, the caterpillars will only eat roughly 5 leaves total and turn into a chrysalis. It's a beautiful butterfly, very few make it to butterflies because of all of their natural predators (birds, wasps, spiders, lizards). They've even taken them off my plant when they're in cocoons so I've taken to covering the plants with mesh to protect them. Anyhow, it's a magnificent experience for your kids. Science in their own backyard! The curling of the leaves could be a number of things, I'm still searching my specific cause, but it's definitely not the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly. Hope you found your cause! :)