Retired. Living simply and frugally. Eating healthy, home-grown, local organic food. Avoiding GMOs, processed, packaged, and shipped foods to be more kind to mother earth. Gardening is my passion.
Friday, June 1, 2012
Globe Thistle Devouring Caterpillars
The bank of thistles.
Several years ago, I found a beautiful perennial plant with unusual blue balls as blooms and I just had to have one. The plant is called Echinops, a.k.a. globe thistle. It falls into the category of plants to attract beneficial insects that every organic gardener must have throughout their landscape. The thistle fit nicely in with the herbs and was originally planted for aesthetics and design in the garden. It's one of those plants that enjoys blooming then spewing its seeds everywhere and each one of these seeds loves to try to grow. Eventually, after moving a couple plants to several locations, the plant took hold by my front door and there's now a huge bank of globe thistles growing wild at our entrance way. It always attracted a ton of bees and butterflies and knowing the benefits of the pollinators, I just left the plant to spread as it may. Don't worry, if you come to visit, when you walk by the bees they keep to themselves and won't stop to say hi. Yesterday (actually, I spied some bug poop about a month ago but didn't pay much attention until now) I noticed about 20 little silk nests on the plants and I started freaking out and was ready to run for the jar to start picking them off, worried they'd affect the blooms. Ahhh, but alas, the old gut feeling prevailed and sent me to the caterpillar book and of the course the wondrous google search. Not having much luck with the book, google saved the day, err- saved the caterpillars in this case. The eventual finding was the caterpillar of the Painted lady butterfly. They feed on plants of the thistle family and build a webbed nest while they feed. What an exciting find by my front doorstep. Our chairs are already parked on the porch to watch the parade of the painted ladies in a couple weeks. Thanks to one of my Facebook friends, Donna G-W, she shared this cool site on the Painted Lady and what she looks like. Donna also is the artist of the beautiful Butterfly bath below that sits 5 feet from the bank of thistles. I find it ironic that her creation arrived at my doorstep and a couple weeks later, 20 painted lady caterpillars were discovered.
Yes, that's a milkweed plant. I let them grow freely.