By: Michael Fox
Parasitic wasps are one of nature’s valuable pest controllers attacking caterpillars that eat your vegetables.
“Their larvae are either parasitic or hyperparasitic (living parasitically upon a parasite). Most caterpillars and pupas are targeted host. Some species attacked other insects and spiders. The female wasp usually locates the food plants of the host then searches with her antennae for a suitable host. The female usually has the long ovipositor which is used to insert eggs into the host body. Some species the ovipositor is longer than the female’s body. The length of the ovipositor allows the female to inject her eggs into hidden hosts such as leaf-rolling or stem-boring caterpillars.” Brisbane Insects
It may be counterintuitive, however, inviting more caterpillars into your garden will help to control your garden pests. And you will also have more butterflies and birds adding colour and song to your garden.
If you can tolerate some chewed leaves you will be providing year-round food to maintain a team of free specialist pest controllers. The Orange Caterpillar Parasite Wasp attacks caterpillars of the Helicoverpa moth species. These caterpillars are a serious pest in your vegetable garden, feeding on tomatoes, beans, lettuce and zucchini, and your geraniums.
Many of the small birds we love, like the Variegated Fairy Wren Malurus lamberti, love caterpillars for lunch, especially when feeding their chicks.