Search This Blog

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Place for Caterpillars


I met two intrepid caterpillar hunters at my local Armstrong Garden Center one hot afternoon. I was shopping plants, they were gathering monarch caterpillars from the asclepias curassavica plants on display on one of the endcaps. Apparently they grow lots of butterfly larval food plants, or go and gather them, and raise lots of butterflies to be released into their neighborhoods. It's hard work because the caterpillars are always eating, and because predators like wasps and spiders are always hunting for a juicy caterpillar unless you protect them with netting. I asked why do nice young men such as yourselves go to the effort to raise butterflies. They said: because we like them, they are beautiful, the neighbors love them. I was humbled by their efforts and have made plans to incorporate even more larval food plants into my own garden this fall.

6 comments:

aristide said...

very nice blog and photos

Christine said...

What a great idea! Any tips on doing that without messing too much with mother nature's way of doing things?

susie said...

Beautiful shot. That caterpillar is gorgeous!

Moe said...

I, too, am planning on putting more larval food in the garden next summer.

vanessa cardui said...

In mid-October (or maybe later) I'll be doing some planting and will write about what plants I chose and why.

Christine: I wondered about disruption of the natural order while I was talking to the butterfly guys. What happens in my garden is the wasps and spiders get the largest share of the caterpillars and only a few make it to adulthood. Still, we have far more butterflies than we did in the past but there is balance. Providing plenty of larval food plants and of course nectar flowers will result in more butterflies regardless of the shocking mortality rate among caterpillars and pupae. I would like to know if there are non-native butterfly species that we should not encourage due to their competition with native lepidopterans or their damage to native plants. An example would be cabbage whites, but that invasion took place a century and a half ago.

Christine said...

I guess planting native plants would give native insects an advantage over invasive species? It seems that a variety of host plants would be necessary as well, as to not encourage too many of one species at the expense of another. tricky business!