Attention maggots! We are going to fight a war against … well, some other maggots! Or, more specifically, the larval stage of some particularly persistent moths. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the fields, we shall fight in the hills—anywhere with a garden, really.
Understand the Diamondback Moth
If we’re going to strike at the heart of our enemy, we must first understand them. The diamondback moth, so known for the diamond-esque patterns that sometimes appear on their backs, is probably originally from Europe. But since then, their troops have invaded Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as the Americas. Their larvae have a light green tint to them (think of it as their camouflage) as well as two “prolegs” growing from their rears. The eggs they hatch from are oval in shape and lay flat against the leaves. The eggs are a light shade of yellow and can be found in clutches of 150-300.
Diamondback Moth Strategy
The diamondback moth larvae follow a fairly standard plan of attack. They like to prey upon freshly crowning plants and crops. They’ve been known to tunnel into the cores of various plants and foodstuffs such as cauliflower and cabbages. These larvae are small, but they’re hungrier than the main character in an Eric Carle book. They attempt to overwhelm through sheer numbers, hundreds of them attacking produce with superficial damage and worse. Diamondback larvae avoid engaging at any costs, preferring to make a tactical retreat upon an escape rope of silk.
Diamondback Moths Strengths
Diamondback moths, in all of their stages, are much more resistant to pesticides than other foes you may have faced in your battle to keep your garden pest-free. Their rapid-fire life cycle gives them the ability to develop resistance to common pesticides at an incredible rate. These dusty red barons aren’t particularly agile in the air, but they can ride strong air currents and travel significant distances despite their low endurance. This allows them to proliferate far and wide, in places that may or may not have any natural barriers to their population.
Diamondback Moth Larvae Weaknesses
These larvae are not invincible, though. Diamondback moth larvae are vulnerable to rainfall, which is why crops and farms with sprinkler-fed irrigation tend to be more successful in getting rid of these infestations. And while their life cycle allows for rapid adjustment to pesticides, proper monitoring and rotation can lead to surprising progress in that area.
Diamondback Moth Larvae Countermeasures
There are a number of plans you can enact in your campaign against diamondback moth larvae. They can be difficult to predict or adapt to, but with these strategies, you can launch a powerful assault against them.
Natural Combatants of Diamondback Moth Larvae
There are plenty of natural predators, parasites, and competing organisms that can be potent allies. You might think that introducing more insects or parasites into your garden or farm is counterproductive—but, as any biologist can tell you, bugs have adapted to survive in all kinds of ways. Parasitic wasps, for example, will lay their young in the moth’s eggs. These insects can be purchased through commercial insect breeders or attracted with nectars and pollens. Predatory can also be attracted with bird feeders to deal with the problem. Another strategy is to introduce plants that will appear hospitable to diamondback moths but ensure their eggs will not survive. Plants with high leaf wax, for example, tend to be extra resistant against proper insect development.
Monitoring and Maintenance of Diamondback Moth Larvae
Floating row covers, regular monitoring, and general maintenance can also reduce the chance of larval infestation. Clearing away dead plant debris can reduce potential habitats for the larvae as well as help increase the chance you’ll discover where the eggs are hidden to begin with. Healthy plants are also less likely to have any kind of infestation from the get-go. It is best to check on your garden when seeding, thinning, and right before the heading phase.
Infestations are most common once there is significant growth of vegetation, as there is more habitat and more food for growing larvae. If you’re growing large amounts of produce or whole crops, be sure to check them twice a week, especially between July and August. Keep in mind that diamondback moth larvae, as well as many other pestilences, will often migrate to an adjacent field or crop if they feel threatened. So make sure you’re thorough in your attack if you want to drive the enemy forces away for good.
Lures and Pheromones of Diamondback Moth
You can purchase pheromones and similar chemicals that will drive away pests or lure them away from the plants and produce you want to protect. Diamondback larvae, as well as the adults, are attracted to certain scents and pheromones. You can draw them away from the more sensitive areas of your crop or garden. You can also ensure they’ll be directed to somewhere where you’ll have a tactical advantage. Scientists have even experimented with using the known hormones of diamondback moths to disrupt their life cycle and decimate their numbers. You’ve got to love the smell of pheromones in the morning, smells like victory.
Diamondback larvae were once considered a relatively innocuous pestilence, distinctive only for their diamond patterns and their uncanny ability to migrate long distances. But in the era of high-dosage pesticides, these tenacious critters have become a significant problem. They are a testament to the old axiom that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. If you want a beautiful garden or viable crops, you’ve got to be willing to adapt.
Want to learn more about how to fight diamondback moth larvae?
Canola Council suggests Tips for Managing the Diamondback Moth
Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries researches Diamondback Moth
University of Florida studies Diamondback Moth
Pennsylvania State University covers Diamondback Moth
University of California explains Diamondback Moth
Safer Brand covers All About the Diamondback Moth
Tyler Murphy is a freelance writer from Denton, Texas. He has written for a wide variety of publications, including The Dentonite, Sofa King News, and Denton Live. He is a dedicated library patron, loves board games, and is learning to crochet.