Recently I was sent a Butterfly Rearing Kit to review. It was a great little kit containing all the equipment and information needed to observe the miraculous metamorphosis of caterpillar into butterfly. There was an option to send off for captive bred caterpillars or alternatively you could find your own specimens. We decided on the caterpillar hunt but were either not very good at it or there really was not a single caterpillar anywhere in the entire garden. I wrote my review by the deadline despite the lack of caterpillar success.
As soon as the review was posted, would you believe the garden was suddenly alive with the wriggly leaf munching little creatures. I suppose you could attribute that fact to Sod's Law, or maybe the caterpillar collective conscious was just having a little prank at my expense.
We chose an army of tiny green and black caterpillars that had made a home on a nasturtium leaf in my hanging basket and set up our kit.
We positioned the kit in our porch (already proving a great talking point for visitors) and began our observation.
One thing that is impossible not to notice is these little beasts can eat! They eat. They poo. And they grow. I couldn't believe how quickly they grow. As they grow, they molt - crawling out of their skin to leave a shrivelled little caterpillar husk behind them.
The kids love watching them. Little Addy looks at them with such affection saying "They're so cute". I try to watch with a scientific detachment but I do find myself feeling utterly repulsed. I even had a dream last night that there were caterpillars and worms in my living room.
At first, I collected fresh nasturtium leaves twice a day to feed them. As the caterpillars grew, so it seemed, did their appetites. My hanging basket was looking decidedly bare. I had a few other nasturtiums planted around the garden but they hadn't grown terribly well. Rather than trying to pick individual leaves, I repotted a whole plant into a small pot and placed it inside the kit. Within moments, those voracious beasts had found the fresh vegetation and were devouring it.
When there was nothing left of it, I repeated with another. My potential for summer long colour in the garden was reducing with each meal! Last night, as I carefully placed a tender young nasturtium inside the kit, I was reminded of the scene from Jurassic Park where the tethered goat is placed in the T Rex enclosure. By this morning, the nasturtium was little more than a stump of a stem and a memory.
The demand for food was rapidly outstripping the supply potential from my garden. I needed a plan B.
A friend of mine who is a keen amateur naturalist identified my caterpillars as the Cabbage White variety. That was my Plan B - off to Asda to buy a cabbage. My fingers are firmly crossed that this will work.
Of course I could have (should have) chosen these caterpillars that were feeding on the leaves of a tree with an almost limitless supply of food.
We live and learn!