Angela Lambert
7th May 2013

Caring for Caterpillars

Caterpillars. Yuk! Hate them. Squiggly squirmy things that eat my cabbages and hide amongst my flowers looking for all the world like miniature snakes. Yet they morph into such stunningly beautiful creatures and everyone loves butterflies - don't they?

caterpillar of peacock butterfly

 

So if I want to have butterflies visit my garden to improve the view whilst pollinating my plants I'll need to provide them with food for their babies as well as nectar plants for the adults.

Right plant, right caterpillar

It seems as though butterflies from the same families - for example the whites, the browns, the blues or the vassids - all like similar laval food plants.  Good.  That makes my job easier.

The white butterfly family

small white butterfly

 

The whites, such as the orange tip, the small white and the large white all like brassicas as well as nasturtium and garlic mustard.  So. I'm thinking I could plant some nasturtiums near the cabbage patch, keep some of my brassicas covered with fleece when the adults are flying (so that no eggs get laid on them ) and be prepared to sacrifice a couple of plants to the very hungry caterpillars.

 

The blue butterfly family

The blues like birds foot trefoil - no problem, there's plenty of that in my little patch of Meadowmat.  The holly blue is dead fussy and needs both holly and ivy. The small copper wants sorrel or dock.  Nice one, sorrel is also in meadowmat and knowing that it has a purpose makes it easier for me to tolerate the not-very -attractive plant. ,

The vanessid butterfly family

My favourite butterflies are the vanessids. The colourful peacocks, red admirals, painted ladies and tortoiseshell. This family favours painfull plants to nurture their caterpillars. These are the butterflies who like us to grow stinging nettles and thistles in a nice sunny spot well away from potential bird perches.  Lucky for me there's a nice nettle patch in the farm yard next to my garden. Saves me from sharing my garden with the nasty spreading stingy things!

The brown butterfly family

Browns and skippers lay their eggs on native grasses such as Timothy and cocks foot. Whoohoo more meadow plants.

Plants to support butterflies and caterpillars

So this year, as well as sowing annual wildflowers in a butterfly border,  I'll be nurturing the boring grasses and sorrels in my mini-meadow and preparing to part with a cabbage or two.  Just don't ask me to make close contact with any caterpillars.  Much as I value them for what they'll become - they always have and always will make my flesh crawl. Yuk.

 

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