I went out to get the mail, about a week and a half ago. When I opened the door, I startled a black swallowtail butterfly, who immediately fluttered away. I rushed back into the house to get my phone. I went back out and stood quietly by the door and waited to see if it would return.
It did. I have a miniature yellow rose bush that stays in a pot on the front porch all the time. It’s a great plant, returning from near death, sometimes more than once a summer. In the spring I plant some rue in there, too, because I like the way it looks. It’s not as heat tolerant, which I forget each year, and it gives up in July. But, I buy more in September, and it grows nicely until a frost. It also attracts butterflies.
I was really hopeful. Every day when I watered the plant, I did it carefully, not just squirting water all over the plant, as usual, but running water gently into the dirt. I don’t know what black swallowtail butterfly eggs look like, but I think they’re pretty small. So … just in case.
Last Monday, I got the sprinkler and went to gently and carefully water the rose bush/rue plants and …
I immediately put down the hose, got in the car, and drove to the nursery. My previous experience with caterpillars (not lots, but a couple of times) is that will eat up ALL of whatever it is they’re on. All. Every morsel. Once I had caterpillars on some parsley. After they ate it ALL, I was frantic. There were several of them, and I’d already put in lots of energy on them. In desperation, I went to the grocery store and bought some parsley. They did not like it at all. Too cold? Different variety? Too clean? I don’t know. But, they gave up and pupated and I got butterflies. A couple of summers ago, I had them on rue, and they ate all that up. So this time, I wasn’t taking any chances. I went to buy more rue, before they ate up what I had.
I went to the nursery nearest me. I walked around the herb section and didn’t see any. An employee came over and asked if I needed help. “I’m looking for rue,” I said. “I don’t know what that is,” she said. “It’s an herb.” “Oh, well. I’ve just been working here for two weeks.”
I explained that I had some caterpillars, and I needed some more rue. “Oh,” she said, understanding. “You want to treat the caterpillars.” She meant “get rid of them.”
“No,” I said. “I want to buy them lunch.”
So we went off to find the owners, who might know if there was any rue.
We found them working in the shrub area. She called out to them and said, “This lady wants some rue. Do we have that?”
“Yes,” said the owner, taking off her gloves and walking up to us. “They’re herbs.”
“And,” she went on, “Up by the register, I have three of them. They have caterpillars.”
“No thanks,” I said. “I’ve already got caterpillars.”
“She wants to buy them lunch,” said the first employee.
We went and found the rue plants, and found another one with a teeeeny little caterpillar on it. “No, thanks,” I said again. “I have the caterpillar part.” I bought four (other) small plants and took them home. By then, it was afternoon and warm, so I left the caterpillars munching their way through what I had, and waited until the next morning, when I could work in cooler temperatures and shade. I dug up the rue plant that had the caterpillars on it and put it in a small container. I put that into the middle of the caterpillar habitat (yes, I have a caterpillar habitat), and put the four new rue plants around it. And waited.
That’s where we are, as of Thursday evening. I’ll keep you up to date.
“And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
Genesis 1:30 (New International Version)
Yes. That’s pretty much what I’ve observed.