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Mullein Moth and Caterpillar

Published on May 31st 2018
Make sure to look out for the troublesome Mullein moth caterpillar as they are out in force around this time of year! You will find them eating holes on Verbascum (hence the name), Buddleja and Scrophularia.
A close up of a flowering Buddleja davidii plant with green leaves and purple blooms

Butterfly Bush

Buddleja davidii

Dense-Flower Mullein

Verbascum densiflorum

The Mullein Moth Caterpillar

The main threat this caterpillar poses is the destruction of foliage. Severe infestations can strip a plant completely, from late spring to midsummer, with the caterpillars then hiding in the soil to pupate.
Cultural control: The bright black and yellow colouring of the caterpillars make them easy to spot as they crawl across the leaves, so can be picked off by hand.
Chemical control: Plants can be sprayed with pyrethrum, although if the plants are in flower ensure to spray only in the evening, to prevent harm to pollinating insects.

The Moth

The Mullein possesses a wingspan of 4.5cm, along with a large body covered in dark brown stripes. It rather closely resembles a dead plant stalk and can be found in a range of garden habitats. Unsurprisingly the moth remains well-camouflaged until it begins to fly during April and May.
The Mullein moth is widely distributed in England, especially in the South of England, but are much scarcer in Wales.
Let the Candide Community know if you are having problems with the Mullein moth caterpillar in your garden. The photos in this Discover article are from my orchard.

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