Not All Caterpillars are Bad!

gillnurseryBirds, Butterflies, and Bees, Problem Solving, Timely Tips2 Comments

We all hate to see our plants being eaten, but did you know that some of our favorite plants are the food source for many caterpillars. The most common example is Milkweed. It is the only food source for Monarch caterpillars. They will eat all the leaves in one day and want more. They do not kill the plant. The Milkweed will recover quickly with new leaves for the next hatching of caterpillars. Passion Vine is another common plant that gets its own caterpillar, the Gulf Fritillary and the Zebra. Again they can do lots of damage in a short period, but the plants quickly recover. Carrots, Dill and Parsley are the food source for the Black Swallowtail. Even your citrus trees get a caterpillar from the Giant Swallowtail. So just remember when planting a butterfly garden, they do lay eggs and hatch caterpillars which eat your plants, but that’s o.k. Your plants will leaf back out. Plant some plants for the nectar they need and other plants for the larvae to feed. Then kick back and admire nature at work.


2 Comments on “Not All Caterpillars are Bad!”

  1. I do have a milkweed plant near by but I noticed these hungry catapillers this morning. They are grange with black spikes. Like your picture. What are they…good or bad?

    1. Hi Suzette – yours are likely Oleander caterpillars, which will turn into Polka Dot Moth-Wasps. They will eat the foliage of many plants, especially Oleanders. But, if it’s just a few, nothing to worry about. They’ll eat for a few days then continue on their life cycle to becoming moths, which are beneficial pollinators. So, the caterpillars are not bad unless there are a whole bunch of them and they’re doing more damage to plants than you are comfortable with. If that’s the case, then you can either physically relocate them or use organic BT spray to control them.

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