How to Fight the Geranium Butterfly

Without a doubt, geraniums are among the best-selling plants. They resist high temperatures and summer sun, filling balconies and gardens with color.

However, there is a butterfly that can kill our plants if we do not pay attention to. For this, today we want to explain how to fight the geranium butterfly or Lycenia.

How the geranium butterfly works

Usually, this parasite reaches our plants in the form of a butterfly, perhaps that is why we do not tend to pay close attention, nor do we identify it as a problem.

It flies, moves around plants and lays its eggs in the most tender parts. He usually prefers the flowers, buds or leaves closest to them.

Here’s what he was looking for: breeding in a place where his descendants can easily feed and thrive.

When the eggs hatch, the larvae begin to feed on our plants, moving towards the stems as they increase in size, leaving spots and holes on the leaves. Hence, the name of geranium borer.

Butterflies measure about 2 cm and can be observed with the naked eye, as they have diurnal habits. They are brown to orange in color, with white bands around the wings. The larvae are green and hairy, when they begin to grow they have reddish stripes.

They appear between March and October when temperatures are higher.

The damage they cause can be devastating for the plant since feeding on the inside of the stems interrupts the circulation of the sap. The plant begins to show symptoms of weakness and ends up wilting and dying.

This parasite of African origin arrived in Spain in 1987. As with most imported parasites, as it had no natural enemies, it quickly spread throughout Europe and, for this reason, in the year of its arrival and in those immediately following its geraniums mortality was very high.

Fortunately, today we have several methods to combat them and, of course, prevention is our best weapon.

How to prevent the appearance of geranium glycemia

A healthy and well-fertilized plant is better resistant to any attack. Don’t forget to fertilize your geraniums regularly, as it will also help keep flowering all summer long.

We can protect it by using a specific anti-butterfly product, which will prevent them from laying eggs. If you are looking for an ecological product, neem oil gives excellent results, as well as Bacillus thuringiensis. There are also spray products to facilitate application on the plant.

Pay particular attention to these warning symptoms :

  • The buds that are about to open do not bloom and blacken.
  • Bad general appearance: leaf fall and/or yellowing.
  • Holes on the stems, which end up blackening.
  • Larvae droppings on leaves. They are very small spheres that can be confused with the remains of soil.
  • If you notice that the stems are empty, press them to check their condition, start from the tips of the plant towards the base.

What to do if our geraniums are affected by Lycenia

Although we would prefer to avoid it, the best thing is to make a drastic pruning. And when we say drastic, we mean a conscientious pruning. The larvae are tiny when they hatch, it is better to cut in excess than in defect. Eliminate the affected shoots by destroying them, to prevent the larvae from continuing their cycle.

Do not worry about your geranium: it is a very strong plant and will grow back without problems.

It combines pruning with the application of a systemic product to be applied diluted in irrigation water. It’s the only way to make sure it gets into the plant’s circulatory system and fixes the problem.

As mentioned at the beginning, this parasite prefers high temperatures to complete its life cycle. Between spring, summer and the first months of autumn, it can complete 5 or 6 generations, therefore we must pay particular attention to our plants.

We recommend applying a preventive product every 15 days to make sure geranium plants are protected.