Orange striped oakworm feeds on oak trees for only a short time. PHOTO CREDIT: Walter Reeves

Oak caterpillars probably aren’t gypsy moth

Q: I think I have an infestation of gypsy moth caterpillars in a large tree whose branches hang over my covered porch. The dropping pellets sound like it is raining on the roof all day long. Sandi Evans, email

A: You certainly have caterpillars in your trees but they are probably not gypsy moth caterpillars. The Georgia Forestry Service diligently observes trees in North Georgia each year looking for small infestations. If they find one, they use traps and sprays to eliminate it before it can grow larger. It’s far more likely you have orange-striped oakworms or contracted dantana moth caterpillars. Both of them feed voraciously in fall but really don’t damage oak trees enough to worry about controlling them. They will be gone soon.

Q: I know I have cabbage worms on my new collards. Did I plant them too early or too late? Denise Clark, Stockbridge

A: Cabbage worms seem to attack cabbage, kale, and broccoli plants anytime you plant them, spring, summer, or fall. I’m not sure planting early or planting late would make much difference. The best way to control them is to spray an organic Bacillus thuringiensis product (Dipel, etc) on the leaves when you plant.

Q: I have a Confederate rose which came from my great-grandmother. I’m selling my house before late fall, which is when I should propagate it. Is there any way at this time of year to save some of it for my new home? Nora Fett, email

A: I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t root it right now. I would find a leafy stem several feet long and as big around as your thumb. Cut it into pieces approximately 12 inches long. Make cuts a half inch above a green leaf. Immerse the sections, bottom end down, in a small bucket of water so that the bottom eight inches of each piece is covered with water. Put the bucket outdoors in a spot that gets bright shade. Each piece should have good roots on it by October. It might be iffy to plant it outside then. I would plant each piece in an 8-inch pot and place it in a bright window indoors until time to plant it next spring.

Q: I can’t believe my dogwoods are blooming now! So what happens in spring? Tom Ephgrave, Lilburn

A: It’s not unusual for dogwoods to bloom lightly in fall. It’s partially triggered by light levels and day length, which are similar now to the spring conditions when dogwoods normally bloom. Only a small portion of the buds open in fall. You won’t likely notice much difference next spring.

Q: I found several black and green striped caterpillars on my Italian parsley plant. Mary Jo Alton, email

A: They are swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, sometimes called parsley worms. The butterflies laid their eggs on your plant back in July. Unless you desperately depend on the size of your parsley crop, I recommend you let the caterpillars do their thing. You can plant fresh parsley plants in a few weeks; the caterpillars will be long gone by then.

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Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on News 95.5 FM and AM750 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook Fan Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener for more garden tips.

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