It seems there are quite a few butterfly fanciers out there. Perhaps slaves is a more apt term. One friend, Susan, seems as enslaved as I am. And more obsessed. She says –
1/ I count the caterpillars at least 3 times a day. 122 last week.
2/ I rescue them off the path when they drop.
3/ I insist visitors come and admire them.
4/ I photograph them. Did you know they actually 'fight'?
5/ When the tree is stripped, I am always shocked!
6/ I google alternative foods. Last year, they ate pumpkin. This year it is cucumber and melon.
7/ I joined a Facebook group for them last year. Then I withdrew when I realised I wasn't up to their level of obsession. I do not bring them inside (well, I currently have one chrysalis in the kitchen because...) I do not travel miles to spread them among other swan plants etc.
[Note: a later message upped the inside count to 3]
8/ When a butterfly comes near me, I coo 'My baby!'
9/ I am obsessed. If the tree dies this year I won't mind. They take up sooo much time.
10/ Currently, there are 10 chrysalis (plural) on my walls and downpipe.
11/ I battle wasps and go ape when they attack a caterpillar. Crush them in my bare hands.
12/ I am obsessed and exhausted and hope the tree dies.
To which my response is –
A: Caterpillars can eat a little pumpkin if they are just about ready to go into cocoon – otherwise the butterflies are likely to emerge deformed. I have had very minor success with frangipani leaves – same family of plant, strangely. Even stranger, I think, they’re not interested in milkweed, also the same family and looks much more like swan plant.
B: Caterpillars are stupid. I am constantly saving them from their mindless actions. I have now have another dozen safely into chrysalis stage, at much effort on my part as they insist on doing things like attaching themselves to a leaf rather than to the experienced hanging sticks I provide. Another caterpillar eats the leaf and the chrysalis drops. Whereupon I sigh heavily and attach them to a stick with cotton or a clip.
C: The trees last only a couple of years. Then hundreds of tiny seedlings spring up and butterflies lay eggs on them.
D: Butterflies are stupid.
E: The caterpillars strip the seedlings in moments. So then I am rescuing starving caterpillars and searching for, and buying more plants.
F: I am stupid.
G: I don’t, though, crush wasps with my bare hands. Last summer I was stung twice just by being in the garden minding my own business.
H: It’s a slight relief to find there are others out there who are at least, and even more, obsessed than I am. So, Susan, Val, Anne and others – cheers!