How to obliterate caterpillars?

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Hello! It's been awhile since I posted...

I've been making progress on my outdoor enclosure for my Russian, but I've come across true hell. It started a couple months ago, just a few caterpillars here and there and I was upset about them eating all of the new Testudo mix I had just planted because it was all sprouts. There wasn't much, so I picked them all out by hand and thought that was that. As the sprouts grew into more full plants, I continued to pick the caterpillars here and there, but I figured perhaps having natural life in my garden for my tort could be beneficial to the overall ecosystem in his enclosure. However, I have slacked this past week in plucking them out, and now they are everywhere. Every day I let him out a few moths fly out from the enclosure and I know they've left more babies. Nearly every leaf I checked had 1-3 caterpillars, and there seems to be new babies every day. I'm worried about him possibly eating them unknowingly while he's grazing..

I've also made the mistake of leaving his water dish full and it's attracted roaches as well... so there's that. It's been a long and quite annoying learning process. When we had a garden many years ago there were butterflies and praying mantises and I was surprised to see them in the desert. Although I'm not growing any flowers, for some reason I foolishly expected the same... but all I have is caterpillars and roaches. I do love plants, but I really only have experience with pest-less indoor plants in a quite small and controlled area...

Is there a way I can get rid of these caterpillars besides plucking them one by one that's safe for my tortoise? Perhaps there is another bug I could introduce to eat them? Something small and cute like a rolly polly... or a lady bug... I have some diatomaceous earth, but I've read that it doesn't do much against caterpillars. It will be quite some time before his enclosure is finished, so I have a good amount of time to figure this out, but I expect whatever the answer is to take some time... even if it's painstakingly plucking each individual caterpillar.

Edit: I should also mention that since I live in the desert and none of my neighbors have gardens, the outdoor enclosure has literally just become a moth breeding ground. There is nothing else to attract them.. and I thought just now to ask if maybe planting another garden elsewhere in my backyard could attract them there instead, but true horror would be double the caterpillars.
 

Maggie3fan

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Hello! It's been awhile since I posted...

I've been making progress on my outdoor enclosure for my Russian, but I've come across true hell. It started a couple months ago, just a few caterpillars here and there and I was upset about them eating all of the new Testudo mix I had just planted because it was all sprouts. There wasn't much, so I picked them all out by hand and thought that was that. As the sprouts grew into more full plants, I continued to pick the caterpillars here and there, but I figured perhaps having natural life in my garden for my tort could be beneficial to the overall ecosystem in his enclosure. However, I have slacked this past week in plucking them out, and now they are everywhere. Every day I let him out a few moths fly out from the enclosure and I know they've left more babies. Nearly every leaf I checked had 1-3 caterpillars, and there seems to be new babies every day. I'm worried about him possibly eating them unknowingly while he's grazing..

I've also made the mistake of leaving his water dish full and it's attracted roaches as well... so there's that. It's been a long and quite annoying learning process. When we had a garden many years ago there were butterflies and praying mantises and I was surprised to see them in the desert. Although I'm not growing any flowers, for some reason I foolishly expected the same... but all I have is caterpillars and roaches. I do love plants, but I really only have experience with pest-less indoor plants in a quite small and controlled area...

Is there a way I can get rid of these caterpillars besides plucking them one by one that's safe for my tortoise? Perhaps there is another bug I could introduce to eat them? Something small and cute like a rolly polly... or a lady bug... I have some diatomaceous earth, but I've read that it doesn't do much against caterpillars. It will be quite some time before his enclosure is finished, so I have a good amount of time to figure this out, but I expect whatever the answer is to take some time... even if it's painstakingly plucking each individual caterpillar.

Edit: I should also mention that since I live in the desert and none of my neighbors have gardens, the outdoor enclosure has literally just become a moth breeding ground. There is nothing else to attract them.. and I thought just now to ask if maybe planting another garden elsewhere in my backyard could attract them there instead, but true horror would be double the caterpillars.
Box turtles...
 

dd33

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You can try spraying BT. Its a bacteria that kills the caterpillars when they eat it and it doesn't bother anything else.
 

ZenHerper

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Either "BT" works. But Box Turtles may be regulated in NV. lol

The bacterium BT comes in a variety of subspecies:

It is not a problem for your tort to eat moth larvae or the bacterial endotoxin.
 

Yvonne G

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May we please see pictures of your pests?
 

Toddrickfl1

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Sprinkle some diatomaceous earth around the perimeter of your enclosure daily. Within a few days you'll have no more caterpillars.
 

Danimal

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Sounds Like Army worms but I don't know their range of if you can even have them there. Over the past 6 weeks, in Mississippi, we've had 2 hatchings they can desimate a pasture in a few days if you don't get them quick. they eat everything. They hatch in hordes. :) Only thing we've ever used is Malathion. Did they look like this?
 

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Yvonne G

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Those look like grape leaf skeletonizers.
 

Danimal

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Its weird, I live rural about an 1h from where I work in Memphis. Both mornings I got up and saw the worms in my yard, I went to work and they were everywhere there as well. they come like cicadas and are just everywhere.
 

Jan A

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Its weird, I live rural about an 1h from where I work in Memphis. Both mornings I got up and saw the worms in my yard, I went to work and they were everywhere there as well. they come like cicadas and are just everywhere.
They're hitting Oklahoma hard this year, too. But then i've truly never seen so many different bugs, insects, spiders, worms in one place in my life.
 

JMM

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If they have spines, better to not let your torts eat them. The spines can work their way out of the GI tract and cause internal damage, including abscesses. Avoid malathion near torts. BT ok but needs to be applied to something the caterpillars will eat, so need to figure out what plant/tree the caterpillars are munching.
 
Joined
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May we please see pictures of your pests?
Sounds Like Army worms but I don't know their range of if you can even have them there. Over the past 6 weeks, in Mississippi, we've had 2 hatchings they can desimate a pasture in a few days if you don't get them quick. they eat everything. They hatch in hordes. :) Only thing we've ever used is Malathion. Did they look like this?

I was hoping waiting a day would let me find a couple of the larger ones, but it seems like these ones aren’t eating as much as their earlier siblings were ?


These ones are very small, about 1-2cm fully stretched out.. but over the past few weeks I’ve seen some that are just about as big as those army worms. Every one has been green like these babies, but I’m so squeamish I hope I never come across those darker ones LOL. I prefer these very hungry caterpillar looking guys

BD0E4817-927E-4544-895D-5C3D66230382.jpeg
1C3EDA90-082D-445C-B770-ECB35135830B.jpeg
0BC15550-F4DC-446A-941D-E80776853CAB.jpeg C624EB1A-D712-4B15-9BFD-41EDF7CAD1B7.jpeg

I also think I maybe found a ton of eggs??? So I just got rid of this whole leaf and any similar ones I found just to be safe

2D368184-6727-404E-9325-1FE64D43E5E6.jpeg

But they’re really doing this garden dirty. The other day I had to get rid of so many leaves that had died from having so many holes! This is the aftermath, but it’s been so hard to pick them all away when every caterpillar right now is so tiny.

9FB1429A-0A78-4EBD-94F5-796204237ED4.jpeg
 
Joined
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Either "BT" works. But Box Turtles may be regulated in NV. lol

The bacterium BT comes in a variety of subspecies:

It is not a problem for your tort to eat moth larvae or the bacterial endotoxin.
Sprinkle some diatomaceous earth around the perimeter of your enclosure daily. Within a few days you'll have no more caterpillars.
If they have spines, better to not let your torts eat them. The spines can work their way out of the GI tract and cause internal damage, including abscesses. Avoid malathion near torts. BT ok but needs to be applied to something the caterpillars will eat, so need to figure out what plant/tree the caterpillars are munching.

Oh they’re munching on everything of course..

Thank you for your suggestions!! I happen to already have some diatomaceous earth, so once I get my tort inside I’ll try that out and see how the results are over the next few days.

I’ll definitely give BT a try next, thank you for the link!
 

Toddrickfl1

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Oh they’re munching on everything of course..

Thank you for your suggestions!! I happen to already have some diatomaceous earth, so once I get my tort inside I’ll try that out and see how the results are over the next few days.

I’ll definitely give BT a try next, thank you for the link!
And if the DE doesn't work........ Screenshot_20210915-203937~2.png
 

JMM

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I was hoping waiting a day would let me find a couple of the larger ones, but it seems like these ones aren’t eating as much as their earlier siblings were ?


These ones are very small, about 1-2cm fully stretched out.. but over the past few weeks I’ve seen some that are just about as big as those army worms. Every one has been green like these babies, but I’m so squeamish I hope I never come across those darker ones LOL. I prefer these very hungry caterpillar looking guys

View attachment 332867
View attachment 332868
View attachment 332870 View attachment 332871

I also think I maybe found a ton of eggs??? So I just got rid of this whole leaf and any similar ones I found just to be safe

View attachment 332869

But they’re really doing this garden dirty. The other day I had to get rid of so many leaves that had died from having so many holes! This is the aftermath, but it’s been so hard to pick them all away when every caterpillar right now is so tiny.

View attachment 332875
Looks like cabbage worms. They are harmless, but annoying! No spines, so probably won't harm your tort if it eats them. Spray BT on your radishes and cabbage and other plants that are affected. The caterpillars will ingest it as they feed on the plants and once internalized, the BT crystals will kill the caterpillar. BT washes off so you'll have to reapply if it rains until you get rid of them. It is safe to use on vegetables. Better to treat and leave the leaves so the plant has some means of generating energy until they produce new leaves. If you do feed any leaves to your tort, just wash off--just make absolutely sure the product you are using is pure BT--no pyrethrins/permethrin, etc. in combination.
 

TammyJ

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Get your veggies at the shop. Lol. But it's a thought.

The other idea I had was that maybe you could put mesh around the garden like a greenhouse, that will keep the moths out.

Best of luck!
 

MEEJogja

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Looks like cabbage worms. They are harmless, but annoying! No spines, so probably won't harm your tort if it eats them. Spray BT on your radishes and cabbage and other plants that are affected. The caterpillars will ingest it as they feed on the plants and once internalized, the BT crystals will kill the caterpillar. BT washes off so you'll have to reapply if it rains until you get rid of them. It is safe to use on vegetables. Better to treat and leave the leaves so the plant has some means of generating energy until they produce new leaves. If you do feed any leaves to your tort, just wash off--just make absolutely sure the product you are using is pure BT--no pyrethrins/permethrin, etc. in combination.
If it comes to spraying your plants with something that needs to be reapplied after it rains (good thing OP lives in the desert)... I am a big fan of diluted vinegar and dish soap.
The amount of vinegar needed is very small otherwise you can damage plants.

This works against aphids, millibugs and causes caterpillars to curl up and fall of the plant they are on. They also find leaves that have been sprayed completely repulsive.

Every year ants have a go at farming millibugs on one plant or other on the terrace, and a single application kills all the millibugs and paralyses the ants for a couple of hours.
 

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