Tortrix moth caterpillars

Tortrix moth caterpillars stitch leaves together to provide a little shelter for themselves, and then they graze away unseen inside their little tent of leaves. They’re a regular problem for me on choisya and rosemary, but today I found one on a young lovage plant. They seem to favour the strongly aromatic plants, leaving most others alone.

Tortrix moth caterpillar on young lovage plant
Tortrix moth caterpillar on young lovage plant
Tortrix moth leaf stitching on rosemary
Tortrix moth leaf stitching on rosemary
Tortrix moth caterpillar damage on choisya
Tortrix moth caterpillar damage on choisya
The culprit - tortrix moth caterpillar
The culprit – tortrix moth caterpillar

The only way to deal with them, because they are hidden inside the leaves, is to nip the affected part out. If you open up the leaves they have stitched together the caterpillar will thrash around quite wildly in a bid to escape and find cover again: and then, you’ll quite likely drop it.

It amazes me that such a soft and juicy little caterpillar is able to pull together and then glue quite firmly tough, leathery leaves like those of choisya. But I’m not impressed enough to spare them!

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Ants as pollinators?

Ants tend to get a bad press in the gardening world: they farm aphids, they tunnel everywhere, and they sometimes bite or squirt you with formic acid.

Ant on rosemary
Ant on rosemary

But sometimes ants are beneficial, acting as pollinators to flowering plants. Othertimes, they are simple thieves – drinking nectar without transferring pollen. I think the latter is the case in this situation with the ant “stealing” nectar from a rosemary flower.