Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sad tale of the Black Swallowtail caterpillars

I have sad news to report on my caterpillar farm. I have lost all of them to an unseen garden predator. I started last week with 31 caterpillars and by Friday I was down to 16. This weekend, I built the compound you see in the picture. Unfortunately, it was not good enough to keep away the hungry predator(s); it raided the pen this morning and took all the remaining butterfly babies.

If I have to point fingers, I would point to the army of lizards that inhabit my garden. They are voracious bug-eating machines (eating good and bad bugs). I have no conclusive evidence that they were the culprits but I cannot fathom any other animal that could have gotten inside the protective pen I built. The only thing that gives me pause is that some of the caterpillars were almost as large as the lizards themselves and my knowledge of lizards tells me they tend to pick on small bugs for their food supply.

It would have been nice to see the full cycle of caterpillar to pupa to beautiful butterfly but Mother Nature had other ideas. Maybe next time since my wife wants to replant lots of parsley to attract more butterflies!

7 comments:

Nancy said...

If they were that big, some of them might have gone off to pupate. They leave the plant they've fed in and tuck themselves in inconspicuous places. Sometimes, they're hard to see.

Vanillalotus said...

How sad. Maybe like Nancy said they have hid themselves somewhere to change into a butterfly. If not maybe next time you can stick some in a container to see them change in front of you with no danger. Hopefully you will be surprised by some appearing anyways.

Cheryl said...

Hi Rusty....A similar thing happened to me with some caterpillars....they were eaten by birds. At a later date I did find some in the shed, they had gone in there to pupate. So I did end up with some beautiful whites in my garden. So all may not be lost.
But as you rightly say it is nature.

tina said...

That is too bad. How frustrating.

Frances, said...

Let us believe that they have turned from very hungry caterpillars into the beautiful butterflies.

Frances at Faire Garden

Anonymous said...

I had the same problem in my garden and witnessed a green tree frog eating the caterpillars. Would have never guessed that.

Jameink said...

I was losing my caterpillars to birds and lizards, I suspect. Finally, two of them pupated on a parsley plant. I found the cocoons one evening. They very next morning they were gone! Not empty, gone! I was so disappointed. I plan on doing research over the winter and build an enclosure of some sort next year.