September 19, 2015
September 20, 2015 Most gardeners I know try to keep caterpillars from eating their garden. Today I’m visiting my friend Tim who doesn’t mind the caterpillars; in fact he encourages their consumption of his plants. You see Tim is a farmer, a butterfly farmer. He provides an array of butterfly attracting plants for the caterpillars to consume, for their job is to eat. From passion vine for the Gulf fritillary, milkweed for the Monarchs, and Rue and fennel for the swallowtails, these plants are the preferred forage for the different varieties. Twice a day all summer long Tim and his wife Janet check the various plants for eggs the butterflies have left behind. When they find one, a mesh bag is placed over the plant. Once the egg hatches, this mesh bag provides protection from predators as the caterpillar goes through its growth stages. When the caterpillar produces its pupa, and called a chrysalis, Tim removes it from the bag takes it to his butterfly house. After 10 to 14 days, the caterpillar finishes the magical transformation process, called metamorphosis, and emerges a butterfly. Tim releases them back to the wild, for their job now is to mate and start the cycle all over again. If you’re interested in attracting butterflies to your Mississippi garden, see the Mississippi State University Extension publication, “Butterfly Plants and Mississippi Butterflies”. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman and I’ll see you next time on Southern Gardening.