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Mullein moth


Caterpillars eat holes in the leaves of verbascums, buddleia and figwort. In severe cases, the plant's leaves are completely decimated.

Find it on: verbascum, buddleia, figworts
Time to act: mid-spring to midsummer


The mullein moth, Cucullia verbasci, lays its eggs on verbascum, buddleia and figwort at the end of spring. Shortly after, from late spring to midsummer, the caterpillars demolish the foliage. Bad infestations can actually strip a plant. They then hide in the soil to pupate.


Caterpillars eat holes in the leaves of verbascums, buddleia and figwort. In severe cases, the plant's leaves are completely decimated.


The bright yellow and black caterpillars are easy to spot as they crawl across the leaves, and can be picked off by hand.


The moment you spot an infestation, spray them with pyrethrum. If the plants are in flower, spray in the evening, so pollinating insects aren't affected.

Discuss this problem

Talkback: Mullein moth
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Lovemoths 23/06/2012 at 09:52

The mullein moth is one of the ever decreasing number of British moths to be found in the wild. It is appalling to recommend the destruction of these caterpillars. I have observed moths for 50 years and I have seen my first mullein moth caterpillars this year. They are happily munching their way through a beautiful verbascum that I planted last year and I am so happy that they have chosen my garden to breed in. You should advise gardeners, and I am a gardener, that wildlife should be treasured and not eliminated. The moth may be seen as a pest in some areas but in other regions a garden may be its last hope of survival.
I still use some chemicals in the garden but indescriminate use against creatures that are in decline is bad advice. Please show some balance where wildlife is concerned.

gardeningfantic 01/05/2013 at 08:44

i agree lovemoths.. there is no need to spray them.. i get them ever year as i love verbascums also.. so i just collect them all up and move them to three plants i planted in garden just for them, in with the veg bed.. so they cant harm the others in my front flower beds.
i grow plants and flowers that encourage bees and butteflies and all manner of british wildlife into my garden.. as monty says there is always a way for both of us to be in our gardens together where we both benefit.. to see the spray that are killing our bees now being banned, to protect them, and then read this, its terrible.
all wildlife should be supported in a way that helps both them and the gardener, the suggestion of total obliviation breaks my heart.

YorkshireSpock 25/06/2013 at 16:35

Found these fantastic caterpillars on a self-seeded mullein growing out of the side of a raised bed in our vegetable patch and had to look up on the internet what they were.  Will be leaving them in peace to do their stuff on the mullein and hatch out into the adults.   The caterpillars really are fantastic and voraciouis eaters, if they finish the mullein, there is an old buddleia nearby that they can feast on.  Our gardens are to share and my children will learn from watching these wonderful insects develop!

Berghill 25/06/2013 at 16:59

I actually only grow the native Mullein specifically for the moths. They make a dreadful mess of the plants, but so what. In  a garden this size we can hide things like that at the back of a deep border and no one but us sees it.

nutcutlet 25/06/2013 at 17:08

My garden is for the native inhabitants. The enjoyment that brings to me and like minded visitors is worth any destruction of leaves

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