For the love of insects

This blog post is written by Kelly Tindall, the top entomologist in our household. The title of this blog post is also the title of an excellent book by Thomas Eisner.

The first photo posted by Margaret Balfour - the poor parsley is being decimated by no less than eight Papilio polyxenes caterpillars!

The first photo posted by Margaret Balfour – the poor parsley is being eaten by no less than eight Papilio polyxenes caterpillars!

A friend posted a picture of a parsley plant covered by swallowtail larvae on Facebook with the following caption “Eek! These evil creepy crawly creatures have eaten all my Italian parsley! Need to debug my garden apparently…”. Of course I replied that it was cool and explained to her who they were and what it represented, i.e., a beautiful crop of butterflies!

Few people approach gardening (flower beds and food) like Kent and I do. We garden for insects (check out the recent post about all the beneficial insects in our garden)! For whatever reason, people love to enjoy butterflies, but miss the fact that the caterpillars have to feed on something to grow and develop into the adult stage – the butterfly. With that in mind, consider what insects you would enjoy in your yard and plant their host plants. For instance, if you like monarch butterflies – plant some milkweeds.

So the next time you find a bunch of caterpillars on your flowers, be like my friend Margaret, and celebrate them – take one for the team and let have what they are feeding on! And if you are really lucky you may find a chrysalis that you can bring in and watch the butterfly emerge!

The second photo posted by Margaret shows total parsley destruction by the caterpillars - how cool is that?

The second photo posted by Margaret shows total parsley destruction by the caterpillars – how cool is that?

By the way, in case you are curious as to what happened with Margaret’s parsley…she said, “I decided to love, not hate, my swallowtail caterpillars”, and she looked at her garden as a “butterfly hatchery”. Unfortunately, her parsley it was decimated, but as one of her friends commented – “nobody actually eats the parsley anyway!”

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