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Conundrum - To spray or not

hello, I wonder if anyone can help me with a little problem. I have a well established Berberis that I moved quite a few years ago. It's growing well but over the last two years when it's in full leaf, it gets decimated by a horde of tiny caterpillars which I think are Cabbage Whites. I don't usually spray my plants with anything because I don't want to harm the bees/butterflies/hoverflies as they're in enough trouble as it is. However, I wondered if there's another solution to stopping the caterpillars from munching my shrub ?? Something that won't harm the other beneficial insects ??? Think i'm clutching at straws really but thought i'd ask anyway !!!!
thanks, shazza   


  • Sounds like Berberis Sawfly. (definitely not Cabbage Whites!) 
  • shazza 3shazza 3 Posts: 197
    ok, thanks. should I spray though ??
  • If you can't remove them by hand then a water spray might get rid of them, otherwise use insecticide once flowering is over so that beneficial insects are not harmed.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 87,935
    edited June 2018
    I'd knock them off with a fierce squirting from a hosepipe ... and for future years try feeding the birds from hanging feeders in that area of the garden ... bluetits will get used to feeding in that part of the garden and bring their fledglings to feast on your caterpillars  :)

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • wild edgeswild edges Posts: 10,462
    Probably no help for you now but I get a lot of problems with gooseberry sawfly. I put up a couple of bird nest boxes next to the gooseberry patch and I haven't had a problem since.

    I remove sawfly caterpillars by hand anywhere else and leave them on the bird feeders. They are gratefully received :)
    If you can keep your head, while those around you are losing theirs, you may not have grasped the seriousness of the situation.
  • shazza 3shazza 3 Posts: 197
    thank you all for your replies. unfortunately, I can't put birdboxes or feeders where the shrub is located because it's at the bottom of a grassy bank which is sloping downward. the hosepipe isn't long enough to reach either. I may have to spray later in the year but am still not sure about it yet. Lots of thinking to do.    
  • micearguersmicearguers Posts: 637
    Pity you can't have bird feeders; Dovefromabove's advice is really good. A garden is a living thing, a microcosmos. I could never spray (well never say never; if Japanese knotweed were to invade, perhaps). Perhaps the plants are not happy where they are, perhaps it's just bad luck. There are many courses of action that don't involve spraying. A garden is always changing anyway.
  • shazza 3shazza 3 Posts: 197
    I know, however, I'm not sure that I will spray, after all, even caterpillars need to eat !!! Because of the position of the shrub, it would be difficult for a bird table to remain upright. The shrub is situated at the bottom of a slope and apart from caterpillars chomping on it, is growing rapidly. There wasn't a problem last year because we had so much rain, I don't think the caterpillars did that much damage. Anyway, thanks for the reply.
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