The Great Caterpillar Run

by Donna Lewis

On May 2, I went out to the pollinator garden to work, and all I saw was black Pipe-vine caterpillars on the march to find more pipe-vine plants. They ate all the ones I have in my garden right down to the ground and are even eating the stems right now.  It’s a feast going on….

The vines, before

I almost stepped on a bunch of them.

Off it goes!

I got my camera, took a few shots and then carefully walked out of the garden.

The vines, after

They will go out to the pasture and find their native vine until they are big enough to make a chrysalis  and then become a beautiful black swallowtail butterfly.

Nothing left but future butterflies.

In several weeks, my plants will completely grow back and the process begins again. Last year I had four complete cycles.

The caterpillars can be black or dark red.

That is amazing.

PS: Out near where Donna lives, Suna saw at least a dozen of the adults enjoying Indian blanket flowers. Sadly, she was unable to stop the vehicle fast enough for a photo, but it was a beautiful sight.

Pipevine Swallowtail

by Donna Lewis

There has been lots of activity in the pipevine area of my garden.

The first baby pipevine swallowtails (Battus philenor) of the year. These are the black form of the larva. There is also a red form. I will probably have both later on in the month.

This is a species of butterfly that is common around Milam County, so, I am sure there is a native pipevine that it uses as its host plant. My goal this year is to find it, and take some photos.

You will know this butterfly by the blue-metallic hind wings.

Photo taken April 20 at Canyon Lake by dnvarga on iNaturalist. Used with permission.

The pipevine plant I have in my garden is a naturalized version from Brazil. It is apparently safe (not invasive).  It is hard to come by, because the caterpillars will eat it to the ground in 24 hours. Thankfully, it has grown back 4 to 5 times each year. This plant has a toxic ingredient like milkweed to protect the adult butterfly.

 I really like these little guys.  They do not sting you and are interesting to watch.

Who are you gardening for?