Just the back yard!? Nah, I want the front and side yards landscaped in natives too.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Little Detective Work

After another trek out to the butterfly weed with nary a butterfly to be seen...and no obvious signs of monarch caterpillars munching away, I eventually decided to check out one of the spicebushes closest to the house. There I found evidence that something had been munching away at the leaves. Moreover, I found a leaf or two folded over. After gently prying one or two open, I took a blurry picture or two of whatever was inside--later, on closer inspection of the photos, they seem to be tiny spiders...not the caterpillars I was hoping for. However, that was no huge disappointment being that I'd already spotted what I was looking for before I went in to upload the pictures.

In the fold of one larger leaf, I found what I'm assuming is a spicebush butterfly larva. I'll check with the people on WildlifeGardners to see if I'm right.

~smile~ This helps with the disappointment of not seeing any butterflies or monarch larvae yet this year. Obviously, a butterfly had to be in the yard to lay eggs, or I'd not have this cool-looking caterpillar to post about.


Julie Stone said...

That's great! That caterpillar almost looks like a tadpole, they are so cool! I've never seen one myself, but you've given me a good reason to add some spicebushes to our property.

David said...

~smile~ Thanks, Julie. I love your enthusiasm.

They are cool...in an earlier stage, they seem to resemble bird droppings, I think the next instar looks more like a small, stubby snake. You can already see the false eye spots. This is kind of new for me, too. Last year, I think I saw an earlier instar, but not this one, and in one of the last stages they become bright green, I think.

Spicebush is attractive in its own right...but the fact that it attracts these guys and acts as a host plant makes it even better.

The spicebush have male and female flowers on separate plants, so you will need one of each to get the berries. Ideally, I'd like one male and a lot of females, but I think I have several males and only one or two females. I got them from division of the shrubs on my mother's property. I took a few shoots that were coming up from the base. Looks like most of the shoots with a bit of root on them came from a male plant. Oh well.

Good luck with yours. Let me know if you get them and what you think of them. Mine are only about three feet tall at the moment. They become a tall shrub or a short tree.