(an homage to Eric Carle)
At some point last summer, a butterfly lay an egg on a leaf.
One morning, when I wasn’t watching, out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar. Then his brother hatched. And his sister. And his other sister…
They started to look for some food.
On Monday they ate through one Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll.’ But they were still hungry.
On Tuesday, they ate through some gardenias. But they were still hungry.
On Wednesday, they ate through three 6-foot Osmanthus. But they were still hungry.
On Thursday, they ate through a Heuchera. But they were still hungry.
You know the rest of the story.
We all love butterflies. We want them to fill our gardens and delight our children and ourselves. But if we want them, we had better accept that we must also have caterpillars. As depressed as the chewed-up foliage leaves me, I won’t reach for any sprays. Soon they will be big, fat, sleepy caterpillars and I can pass some time with my kids finding cocoons. I grow several plants that are favorite hosts of different butterfly species: rue (Ruta graveolens), favored by the Old World swallowtail; bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), favored by the Anise swallowtail; butterfly bush (Buddleja), Senna marilandica, Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum) and others. When caterpillar season is over I will cut off the decimated foliage, and wait for the butterflies to emerge.
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