At the end of April, we were busy unloading part of the greenhouse in order to attend the annual native plant sale at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton. There were many larval (caterpillar) plants in crates to be carried out to the back of the trailer and truck.
Floating through all this chaos were 2 painted lady butterflies. How on Earth they came out of hibernation and found our greenhouse through the cold and rainy weather of April was a mystery to me. They immediately found their larval plant, pearly everlasting, to lay eggs all over.
In May, we saw the familiar webbing of caterpillars all over the pearly everlasting and knew we were in luck. Today, all 50 plants are spent and we had to transplant 30+ caterpillars to a new site of pearly everlasting. This will be their last big feeding and then they will crawl off into the garden to hang. Later, they will emerge as our beautiful painted ladies.
How wonderful it was that we were able to share a life’s moment with them. And so the cycle of life continues.
Today, several years of planting, weeding and patience, finally, paid off. A beautiful, female spice bush swallowtail swooped down from the windy sky and laid eggs all over last years’ germinated spice bush. A dream come true.
They say spice bush swallowtail butterflies are not common for this area. Like the giant swallowtail butterfly, it is implied that this area is out of range and that these species of butterflies are more for the far south Ontario (Lake Erie) area. The reality is that they are not common here because their larval plants are rare in our landscape. Therefore, plant and they will come.
Actually, we cheated a bit. Our friend gave us several spice bush caterpillars to inoculate our area. This was 3 years ago, and now this is the year the planting and patience is rewarded. We can’t wait to get invaded by caterpillars – how wonderful.