If We Welcome Butterflies and Moths….

On Wednesday, I showed my “Pollinator Pots, ” and I talked about planting the “old-fashioned” petunias that need dead-heading.

One of my more popular posts, even this time of year, but surely in another month or so, is called “What’s Eating My Petunias?” You can read that here if you’re currently having that problem.

Petunias that are not one of the “branded” petunias (and by that I mean ones with names like Supertunia or Wave or something like that) are favored by moths. And moths are pollinators.

Of course moths leave behind eggs, that turn into larva–in other words, caterpillars–and then they begin to eat. That’s the “ugly” part of the equation. We all love butterflies and moths, but we don’t like the “baby” stages. Sigh.

Well, there are a few options. Plant plenty of petunias so there are enough for you and the moth larva (aka caterpillars). Or just move the offending pots out of sight when the caterpillars come around. Remember, caterpillars are only caterpillars for a week or so–then they grow up and become moths and fly away–end of discussion.

Since in my part of the world, by the time the caterpillars are coming around, it’s mid to late July, I can always change out these annuals to something else. For Pete’s sake, some of the stores are showing mums already at that time. And no one eats those.

Or I could again do the right thing and get some asters so the butterflies would have something to nectar on as they journey south. They too are around in July–and they are perennial for me. I could start them in pots and move them to the garden later.

I also plant a lot of parsley–more than I could ever use in a lifetime–for the swallowtail butterfly larva. Some years this works better than others. One year, hornets came and ate the larva. Ouch. But most years, I worry I’ll run out of parsley before the little larva grow into butterflies.

And milkweed of course. I had 3 different kinds. I’m not seeing any sign of it this year–a polar vortex casualty I fear. I’ll need to replace all of it asap. It’s a shame because I had a huge clump. Oh well. We can only presume nature knows what it’s doing.

But really, if we want to welcome butterflies and moths we do need to at least tolerate a little chewing on the plants now and again. Look the other way. Plant something in front of the milkweed so that the “damage” isn’t so obvious. But for Pete’s sake, never think about about spraying! Don’t undo all the good in your habitat!

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