I'm visiting grandparents in Albuquerque, New Mexico and am trying to help perk up some of their potted and hanging potted plants. It doesn't take long for plants to dwindle in this area (dry and hot and high altitude).

I keep finding tiny caterpillars (or worms?) that are no longer than the width of my pinky finger nail. They're white with one wide horizontal black stripe (not from head to tail, just across abdomen). They are not fuzzy, and have no spikes. They are chewing on the flowers only from what I can tell, Petunias specifically. They chew on them before the bloom is even open! And the ones that have opened get torn up too!

I treated for mites, and the spray consisted of garlic oil, cottonseed oil and neem. The mites disappeared, but these little white and black buggers did not.

Can you please help me to identify them for me, so I can research how to get rid of them? I'm not finding matching pics online. Or do you have any tips to get rid of these? I know the Petunias specifically won't last too too much longer, but until then I'd like to keep up with them as much as possible during my stay.

Please refrain from discouraging keeping these flowers in this climate or recommending others-locals here have already warned us. My grandmother just moved here, has little income to get more and it gives her comfort to look out the window and see her flowers, during hard times.

This is a picture of what might be the "baby" or "larvae version" of pest. It's not a good picture, and was taken at night with flash, so you can't see markings, but he's white. (I'm still trying to get a good picture, my luck- they're hiding when I try to get a picture!)

Picture of baby or larvae version of the pest.

Here's a picture of the damage. Picture of damage

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    Can you pick one of the worms off, take it inside and get a decent photograph? Or, compare with pictures of the likely pest being the tobacco budworm. Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 5:02

1 Answer 1


First of all this definitely needs a (good) picture of the caterpillar. Second of all I have bad news for you: caterpillars (unless you intend to squash each of them manually with your fingers) call for pesticides that are a tad bit stronger than garlic oil, linseed oil and neem. Perhaps if you told at a local supplies shop that you need some spray against caterpillars they might be able to help you. Since petunias are ornamental plants the sprays' possible toxicity to humans wouldn't be a problem either.

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