Tansy-Ragwort Caterpillars, Home Guides, SF Gate

Tansy-Ragwort Caterpillars

Native to Europe and western Asia, tansy ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) has spread to other areas of the world, where it is an invasive weed. This biennial member of the daisy family grows a basal rosette of leaves the first year and a flower stalk and flowers, sets seed and dies in the second year. The plant invades pasture lands and is toxic to livestock. In the U.S., it occurs in the West, Pacific Northwest, Northeast and upper Midwest in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8. One of the biological control agents used to help stop its spread is the colorful cinnabar moth caterpillar (Tyria jacobaeae).

Cinnabar Moth

Tansy ragwort is difficult to control once it becomes established. In 1959, the cinnabar moth was introduced into California as a possible biological control agent. Adult moths are less than an inch long and brightly colored. The forewing is black, marked with a crimson line along the wing front and with crimson spots along the outer edge. The lower wing is all crimson. After mating in late spring, the female moth lays groups of eggs on the underside of the leaves in tansy ragwort’s basal rosette.


Several weeks after the female moth lays her eggs, caterpillars emerge and begin to feed on the tansy ragwort leaves. Caterpillars are bright orange with black bands. They feed gregariously and voraciously and are quite conspicuous when present. Caterpillars crawl about in roving bands of 10 to 30 and feed not only on leaves, but on the flowers and growing tips of the now-blooming tansy ragwort. They go through five instars, or increasingly larger sizes of caterpillars. They molt between each instar so the caterpillar can increase in size.

In late summer, the fifth instar caterpillar changes into a reddish-brown, 1-inch-long pupa, which overwinters amid ground debris or in soil. In the late spring, the adult male and female moths emerge from the pupae, mate and repeat the life cycle. Larvae and adults contain the bitter toxic alkaloids the tansy ragwort contains, since the caterpillars retain this compound in their bodies as they feed on the plant. This acts as a feeding deterrent on possible predators. If you are relocating quantities of caterpillars for introduction to new sites, do not allow livestock to graze the area and possibly eat the insects.

Control Effectiveness

It takes a while for populations of cinnabar moths to build to effective levels. Since heavy larval feeding can leave plants stripped of all foliage, significant reductions in flower and seed production can result. Used alone, the cinnabar moth has limited success, with control occurring when larval defoliation was accompanied by environmental factors such as frost. However, used in combination with the ragwort flea beetle, another biological control agent, cinnabar moth larvae were more effective. The presence of parasitoid wasps and a pathogen that attacks cinnabar moth may be factors limiting its success.

References (4)

  • Global Invasive Species Database: Senecio Jacobaea L.
  • United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service Plants Profile: Senecio Jacobaea L.
  • United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service: Plant Guide: Tansy Ragwort — Senecio Jacobaea L.
  • Proceedings of the Twelfth International Symposium of Biological Control of Weeds; M.H. Julien, et al.

About the Author

Cathryn Chaney has worked as a gardening writer since 2002. Her horticultural experience working in the nursery industry informs her garden articles, especially those dealing with arid landscaping and drought-tolerant gardening. Chaney also writes poetry, which has appears in «Woman’s World» magazine and elsewhere. Chaney graduated from the University of Arizona in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.


How to Use Cloves to Repel Pests

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Clove is a natural option for keeping common pests away from your home and yard. These 5 tips on How to Use Cloves to Repel Pests will help you use this common spice to your advantage!

Cloves don’t just smell amazing, did you know they are great for pest control too? Found in the spices section at your local grocer, cloves are affordable and such an easy way to keep those pests at bay. If you want to know more about how to put cloves to work for you when keeping your space pest free, take a look at some helpful suggestions below on How to Use Cloves to Repel Pests.

How to Use Cloves to Repel Pests

1. Make your own pest spray. This DIY pest spray using cloves is so simple. Cloves can help repel mites and aphids in your garden, both of which love to eat your ornamental plants. If you are having an issue with mites or aphids, you can soak a jar of cloves (about 2 tablespoons) in a bottle of warm water. Allow to cool (important!) and spray on any areas that pests are present. Always spray in the evening when sun is minimal and temps are cooler.

2. Banish deer. If deer are nibbling on your plants, you can sprinkle cloves around the area where they seem to be dining. They will not like the scent or the taste of cloves, so sprinkling them liberally is always a great idea. You can also sprinkle the cloves in powder form directly onto plants if the whole cloves don’t seem to be getting the job done.

3. Use cloves in place of moth balls. While moth balls are an effective way to keep moths away, they smell horrible. Instead, place a few tablespoons of cloves in a cloth or linen bag and hang it in storage closets or anywhere where moths seem to be an issue. They will hate the smell, but you will love it. You will also find the smell of the cloves won’t linger in your clothing as the scent from moth balls would. It is a win win.

4. Keep ants away. Ants despise the scent of cloves. You can crush whole cloves and sprinkle the powder near entrances where ants seem to be coming in the home. They will hopefully head into another direction, like outside where they belong. Use crushed cloves safely in kitchens, campers, tents, garages, or anywhere where ants are starting to get cozy. Simply wipe away when done, or, you can reapply every few days as needed.

See also:  Wasps flying around roof and downspouts

5. Repel biting bugs. If mosquitoes are an issue, cloves can help. Add cloves to jars of water and float a citronella candle in the mixture. The combination not only looks and smells pretty, but it can help keep mosquitoes away. You can also try sprinkling crushed cloves around your picnic area or picnic table if biting bugs are posing a threat.

If you are ready to say goodbye to pests and want to do so in a way that is earth friendly, chemical free, and easy, give these tips for using cloves as pest repellant a try. As you can see, it can be effective with a variety of pests and pest situations.


Preventing Damage from Clothes Moths and Carpet Beetles

Guide C-504

College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences New Mexico State University. (Print Friendly PDF)

Pesky insects-so small you hardly notice them-may be doing damage to garments and other textile items around your home. Generally, you aren’t aware of them until its too late. And the babies are the culprits-eating their way through your sweaters, jackets, and pants, or wool rugs and needlework as they mature. Their mothers and fathers do no damage-except to leave behind their eggs from which the hungry larvae hatch.

Most people know that clothes moths can do considerable damage, but carpet beetles can cause extensive damage if they are not controlled. Clothes moth larvae are usually found on their food material. Carpet beetle larvae are more adventurous and may crawl from one room to another, or from one apartment to another. They also can be found in bird and rodent nests.


Mature insects deposit eggs in a variety of locations-clothing, upholstery, rugs or carpet, toys, animal skins or trophies, and even natural-bristle brushes. As the eggs hatch, the larvae begin to feed on animal-based materials: silk, wool, feathers, and leather. They also have been known to eat fabrics blended with wool and items soiled with food stains or body oils.

Eggs and larvae of moths and beetles can be carried into homes on articles containing wool or other animal fibers. Items such as secondhand furniture, upholstered furniture, and other home furnishings can be home for these pests. Clothes moth eggs or larvae also can hide in woolen fabrics or rugs.

Adult clothes moths prefer darkness and quickly hide when they are disturbed. Clothes moths are not the moths seen flitting about lights. Adult clothes moths are about 1/2 inch long and light tan in color. They have narrow wings and prefer darkness.

Adult carpet beetles are attracted to the sunlight and are known to feed outdoors on pollen of flowers. The most common adult carpet beetles are small, oval-shaped insects that are black with varied patterns of orange and white. They are sometimes mistaken for common garden lady beetles because of their similar size and shape.

Two types of clothes moths damage textile items. Casemaking clothes moth larvae (cream-colored caterpillars less than 1/2 inch long) spin protective cases incorporating pieces of the items they are eating. The cases, which they drag along as they move, eventually become tough cocoons in which the insect pupae develop into adult moths. Webbing clothes moths spin a silken web to form feeding tubes that they attach to the item being eaten. See fig. 1.

Carpet beetle larvae (about 1/8-1/4 inch long and covered with hairs or bristles) do not spin webs or make cocoons. (fig. 2) As they mature, they shed their skins, which look like living larvae. Carpet beetles crawl from place to place as they eat, but may be found in areas that do not provide any food. Fecal pellets are found where beetles have been feeding.

Fig. 2. The life cycle of the carpet beetle. Carpet beetles undergo complete metamorphosis. The adult lives 20 to 60 days and lays 30 to 100 eggs, which hatch in 6 to 20 days. The larva lasts 60 to 325 days. Both the larval and adult stages damage fabric. (Actual size of adult 1/10-1/3 inch, or 2.5-5 mm).

Clothes moth and carpet beetle larvae feed in quiet, dark areas-closets, attics, bureau drawers, storage trunks or boxes. Items that are stored for long periods are especially at risk. Such pests seldom infest items used on a regular basis. They do not damage rugs and carpets in regular traffic areas or where routinely vacuumed. Areas next to the wall or under furniture are likely targets for these hungry insect larvae.

Preventing and Controlling Infestations

To prevent infestation by clothes moths and carpet beetles, practice good housekeeping. If carpets and rugs are vacuumed frequently and thoroughly, eggs and larvae will be removed before damage can occur. Vacuum upholstered furniture carefully. If you have pets, pay special attention to removing animal hair-it is a food source for moth and beetle larvae.

Decorative rugs and needlework displayed on the walls of your home also should be vacuumed. Heirloom items that have been stored for safekeeping should be inspected regularly.

Clothing and other textile items should be stored only if clean. Storage areas should be kept clean. Vacuum the floors, shelves, and walls to remove dust, webs, and any inconspicuous eggs or pesky insect larvae.

Clothing and other textile items can be protected by storing them in tight-fitting containers or carefully sealed boxes with a moth repellent. The vapors of the repellent are lethal to fabric pests only if they are maintained at sufficient concentrations for a sufficient amount of time. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Generally, two to three weeks of treatment will ensure absolute kill of all stages of insect pests-egg, larva, pupa, and adult.

After storage, air items for a few days before using them to get rid of any odor. If items are washable, launder them before using.

If you find that your home has an infestation of clothes moths or carpet beetles, remove all items from the infested area carefully. Vacuum the areas thoroughly and wash surfaces that have been in contact with infested items. Be careful not to contaminate other areas of your home.

If an insecticide is to be used in the infested area, read and follow instructions for its use carefully. If a spray is used, apply it to cracks and crevices and infested areas only. Do not spray walls and shelves. If carpet is infested, it can be sprayed, especially along baseboards and under furniture.

DO NOT directly spray clothing or bedding with an insecticide. Remove all clothing, shoes, and other items from a closet or piece of furniture before the insecticide is applied.

Before returning items to areas that were infested, launder or dry-clean them. Both laundering in hot water and dry-cleaning will kill all stages of fabric pests. Cleaning also will remove food stains or body oils, which attract insects. Brushing and sunning items will help to rid them of eggs and larvae. Brush items outdoors to prevent infestation of other items.

If items were heavily infested, it may be best to discard them to avoid re-infesting the area. Then watch the area to be sure there is no damage to stored items.

Many household pesticides commonly used to control ants, roaches, and fleas also can be used in storage areas to control fabric pests. These types of products can be purchased at the supermarket, drug store, or hardware store. If you do not feel these products will be sufficient to eliminate the infestation in your home, a reputable professional can be contacted for assistance.

Commercially available moth repellents include paradichlorobenzene (PDB) and naphthalene crystals (moth balls). Both are toxins and can be absorbed into the body when vapors are inhaled, especially over an extended period. Some individuals may be especially sensitive to these products and should avoid their use.

See also:  Other Pests

When using a moth control product, do not place the product directly on fabric. Some fabrics and fabric dyes are adversely affected by the products. Place the product on a paper or between layers of paper to protect the items when using in storage boxes or trunks. If a garment bag is used, suspend the moth control product in an old sock or nylon stocking at the top of the bag. Be sure clothing is stored loosely so fumes can filter throughout the bag.

These repellents create vapors that are heavier than air, so they should be placed in the storage area above the items. Do not use them when plastic hangers or plastic buttons, belts, or trim are involved. Plastics may react with PDB and naphthalene and be permanently damaged.

Some dried herbs and other natural materials are thought to help repel insects-cedar, eucalyptus, pennyroyal, lavender, and tansy. Care should be used with such products because some of them are toxic. Always read the label and follow instructions carefully.

Cedar-lined closets and cedar chests can help prevent infestation if they can be sealed tightly. After several years, however, the volatile oils that provide the protection may dry up and no longer be effective.

Freezing can be used as a method to control fabric pests. To be effective, store items at 0°F for a minimum of 48 to 72 hours. Kill can be achieved at 10°F, but the items must be stored much longer. This method works best for small items such as stuffed animals, feather accessories, or items difficult to launder or dry-clean.

When freezing items, place them in polyethylene bags, squeeze out excess air, and seal tightly. After the prescribed amount of time in the freezer, remove the item to the refrigerator to thaw slowly. Items can be removed from the bag after coming to room temperature. Or store the items in the polyethylene bag. To guarantee a complete insect kill, it is recommended that you immediately repeat the process before removing contents from the bag.

Cold storage is an effective way to protect previously uninfested furs and other items from insect damage. It does not kill the eggs or larvae. It simply prevents the larvae from feeding. Infested items should be cleaned prior to cold storage.

Mothproofing is a chemical treatment given to fabrics that protects them from insects without leaving any odor. If an item is labeled «mothproof» or «moth resistant,» the protective chemical must have been applied when the item was manufactured. The process is considered permanent. At this time, there is no mothproofing product available for consumer application.

The best way to protect your clothing and furnishings from damage from fabric-eating insects is to use the following measures:

  • Purchase items the manufacturer has treated so they resist clothes moths and carpet beetles.
  • Apply protective treatments to likely targets of clothes moth and carpet beetle infestation.
  • Practice good housekeeping so the insects do not have a chance to lay eggs, which hatch into hungry larvae.
  • When necessary, use insecticide or a natural repellent to discourage insects from infesting your home. If you discover a heavy infestation of insects in your home, contact a reputable pest control firm to help remedy the problem.

New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.

Reprinted March 2001
Electronic Distribution July 2001

We seek to improve the lives of New Mexicans, the nation, and the world through research, teaching, and extension.


Essential Oils and Bugs : How to Keep Them Away

The combination of essential oils and bugs will leave a lot of people baffled. But the truth is that essential oils and bugs indeed go together, as essential oils can be used to kill or at least keep bugs at bay.

If your home has been invaded by creepy crawlies, you may be tempted to reach for the most toxic bug spray around to blast them to kingdom come. However, using insect repellent around your living spaces should not be your only line of defense, especially since bug spray can harm you as well. Instead, consider using essential oils bug repellent.

Essential Oils and Bugs: Why Opt for Natural Insect Repellents

In addition to having a pungent and strong odor that is not meant to be anywhere near your nose, conventional insect repellents can actually harm people who have serious allergies. Even if you are not allergic to their ingredients, mainstream repellents contain harmful ingredients such as DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). Strong enough to melt plastic upon application, this ingredient has reportedly caused a number of health concerns including tremors, impaired brain cell function, seizures, hives, and hypotension. If one single ingredient can do this, imagine how much damage others can cause you. So, before you go on a killing spree Ghostbusters-style, we suggest you put down the Proton Pack and grab the nearest bottle of Patchouli.

Essential Oils and Bugs: Special Oils for Specific Bugs

Insects hate essential oils and will avoid them like the plague. Use them around your home and all insects will mark it as a no-go zone despite how warm it seems or how much food they can scrape there. If you want to make sure that specific bugs do not make their way to your home or cause you discomfort or harm, you will need to use individual oils that repel them.

For Mosquitoes

Whether you want to protect a pregnant mother-to-be from the cause of the zika virus or prevent yourself from scratching your skin off, essential oils can help while ensuring your safety. The following oils can help.

If you would rather mix it up a little, a study published by The American Mosquito Control Association found that a blend of geranium oil and peppermint oil is great at keeping mosquitoes at bay.

For Flies

If flies are a concern and you hate having them buzz around your head, use the following oils to literally get them to buzz off.

For Ants

Ants are a nuisance, especially during summer. To prevent them from colonizing your home and avoid getting bitten by those scary pincers, stock up on the following essential oils.

  • Spearmint
  • Citronella
  • Garlic
  • Peppermint
  • Pennyroyal

For Fleas

Pet owners must be shaking their heads at the moment, remembering the last time they had fleas torment them and their fur babies. Well, you can save both from repeating this experience using the following oils (ask your vet about Fido though):

Essential Oils and Bugs: All-Purpose Anti-Bug Essential Oil Blends

If you have more than one type of creepy crawler residing with you, you can deter those unwanted visitors from invading your clean and cozy living spaces by using one of these two amazing anti-bug essential oil blends.

Peppermint Bug Repellent

Peppermint is quite effective against mosquitoes whereas the scent of citrus oils is disliked by moths. So, using this blend near windows will stop the insects from flying in.

How to Make It:

You will need 10 drops of Citronella oil and 3 drops of Peppermint oil. Mix these oils well and either spray them around or let a few drops fall onto the floor at equal distances.

Lavender Bug Repellent

The Lavender bug repellent actually smells incredible. Add a fresh citrusy scent and you will feel cleansed and relaxed. And the cherry on top? Bugs hate it!

How to Make It:

You can quickly create a great blend by mixing 5 drops of lavender oil and 5 drops of citronella oil.

See also:  How to remove parasites like mites, lice, fleas at Guinea Pigs fur

Essential Oils and Bugs: Anti-Bug Sprays and Lotions

If you want to be extra sure about your safety, you can use essential oils to create sprays and lotions that you can use on your skin. These are especially beneficial if you plan on going out for long or have a camping trip coming up. However, remember to dilute the essential oils used in the following recipes. Neat application on skin is NOT a good idea as it will irritate and harm the skin.

Homemade Gentle Bug Repellent Spray

This spray is meant to be applied onto your skin just like a regular, store-bought formula. Its formula is gentle enough to be used by kids or even pets. What You Need:

  • A spray bottle—8 oz. or 10 oz. in size
  • Witch hazel
  • Water
  • Essential oil (Lemongrass, Lavender, Peppermint, Clove, Lemon, Eucalyptus or Tea tree)

How to Make It:

Mix equal parts of witch hazel and water. Add in 15 drops of the essential oil of your choice. Spray onto arms, legs, back, and neck.

  1. Eucalyptus and lemon will irritate the skin of younger kid, so opt for other oils.
  2. Lemon, eucalyptus and tea tree are perfectly safe for older kids and pets.
  3. For pets, spray a little bit on their legs, around the collar and the end of the tail. Another great trick for pets is to apply a drop of undiluted eucalyptus, tea tree or citronella oil onto their collars to discourage fleas or ticks from biting them or infesting their collars.

Powerful DIY Bug Repellent Spray

The recipe below will help you create a powerful spray that will remain effective even if you go into wooded areas or hiking trails.

What You Need:

  • A spray bottle—8 oz. or 10 oz. in size
  • Witch hazel
  • Water
  • Vegetable glycerin
  • Essential oil (Lemon, Rosemary, Citronella, Eucalyptus or Tea tree)

How to Make It:

Mix water and witch hazel in a 2:80 ratio. Add in about a teaspoonful of the glycerin, mix well and finally mix in 30 drops of the essential oil you like. Spray all over exposed body parts and you will remain protected against bites. This formula is pretty strong, if you experience any irritation or redness of skin, discontinue use and go for gentler options.

Strong Bug Repellent Lotion (For Grown-ups)

This recipe is better suited for adults and older kids because it contains liquid soap. Smaller kids might accidentally touch their skin and then their mouths, ingesting the soap.

What You Need:

  • Liquid Castile soap—1/3 cup
  • Essential oil—30 drops (Tea tree, citrus or eucalyptus)

How to Make It:

Simply mix well and apply onto arms, legs, neck and exposed body parts. Use this when going on hikes through woods or insect-infested gardens.

All Natural Bug Repelling Lotion (Kid-Friendly Version)

If you prefer lotions instead of sprays, this is a great option. It is a gentle two-ingredient formula that is suitable for kids as well and is one of the best options in essential oils and bugs killer series.

What You Need:

  • Coconut oil—1/3 cup
  • Essential oil—15 drops (Peppermint, Lavender or Clove)

How to Make It:

Mix the two ingredients together and slather onto arms, legs and any other body parts that may be exposed. It will keep the bugs away and the coconut oil will act as a great moisturizer.

Essential Oils and Bugs: Ingenious Ways to Use Essential Oils around Your Home and Garden

Aside from protecting you from the attacks of insects, essential oils can be used around the house to repel them from your house. And if you have a garden, you will definitely appreciate their use since they will not harm your pants. Here are some ways to get the most of their anti-bug properties. .

Bug Sprays

Sprays can be a convenient way to deal with bugs, especially since they spread to a wider region within seconds. Besides, they are easier to bottle and store for later use.

Cotton Wool

Use 2 to 3 drops of essential oil to soak a cotton ball and place this in specific nooks and corners of the house where insects are likely to gather. Use more than one cotton ball if you want. Be sure to place them near any small holes the insects are using as entrances into your home.

Hanging Strips

This is a very useful way to disperse essential oils over a large area. If the creepy crawlies have taken over a large area, use this method to get rid of them. Another great idea is to put a few drops of essential oil onto pretty ribbons and hang them from open windows. You can create a pretty and artistic arrangement that combines aesthetics and function. The slight breeze will waft in the scent of the essential oil and at the same time keep the insects away.

Strings and Thin Ropes

This is an easy method which can be used in outdoor areas and even indoors if you place the string strategically along walls. Soak thin (but strong) string in essential oil and tape it or hang it where bugs are getting in.

Plastic Cartons

Limited to use in gardens, this method targets all pests and insects which move on the ground. It is even effective against mice, snails, or other neighborhood pets that you want to keep away from your precious plants.

Take a plastic container (an old yogurt container is perfect), bury it in the soil such that its top part is at the same level with the soil. Put 4 drops of any anti-bug essential oil. You should use strongly-scented essential oils such as spearmint, thyme or eucalyptus as their strong aroma will keep snails, mice, rats and other large pets from roaming about the area. If you want to keep dogs away from the area, avoid using Lavender. Dogs actually like its aroma. Similarly, cats will not mind orange essential oil even though they dislike the scent of oranges.

Green Cleaners with Insect-Repelling Powers

Another way which you can naturally incorporate the bug-repelling power into your everyday cleaning routine is to make your own essential oil cleaning products. These all-natural cleaning products contain no harmful chemicals and will keep away bugs and insects from your kitchen and rooms.

Extra Tips to Stay Bug-Free

In addition to using essential oil sprays, lotions, etc. on yourself and around your home and garden, you need to take a few extra measures to be absolutely bite- and disease-free. Here are some valuable tips you should remember and follow.

  • Do not eat tropical fruits very often. They end up making your sweat smell fragrant and attractive to insects. If you plan on going on a camping trip, increase your garlic consumption or drink a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water to alter the body’s pH levels.
  • Stay away from dark colors. Wear light colored clothing and cover your head.
  • Try to avoid using perfume, deodorant, or hairspray that has a sweet or fruity scent.
  • If possible, avoid going outside at times when insect activity is at high levels, such as early morning or sunset.
  • Install mosquito nets around play areas and beds to keep your kids safe at all times.
  • Remain in screened-in areas most of the time if possible.

While essential oils are famously used in beauty products, they can indeed help in other things as well. This Essential Oils and Bugs article will help you control bugs without much trouble.


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