Inadvertent Hawk Moth Habitat
In addition to the 105 lbs of potatoes we harvested, we’ve got enormous red beets coming out our ears, a never ending supply of chard, and even more never ending supply of arugula, which I planted in all innocence three years ago, having no idea how enthusiastically it would spread. The leeks are going great guns, as are the Borlotti beans, the runner beans, the sunchokes, the sunflowers, and the parsnips. I have waved the white flag at the fennel, which was growing faster than I could eat it, and the survivors are now each working their way up to being bigger than me. The onions are hanging like vampire bats on the veranda, the fava beans are pretty much over, the strawberries are so over I barely remember them, and the garlic has either gone to ground or been pulled out to be replanted in the fall to finish its two years of growing up into proper heads full of cloves. The first tomatoes are finally red, the cucumbers are almost totally over, the zucchini, which kicked ass last year when it was hot and dry, are limping along this year (which is wet and cool), and I have FIVE eggplants in production (a miracle!) now that I figured out the veranda is like a greenhouse in the afternoon.
But everything else (kale, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower, sugar peas, sweet corn, lettuce, radishes, and whatever I have forgotten) just fed the insects. So I walked around the garden yesterday taking photos of some of the caterpillar culprits (because they’re more photogenic than slugs) because the least they can do is pose a bit for their supper.
So much for my dreams of broccoli.
This beast, Pieris brassicae, has KO’d them.
It has been terribly unkind to the cauliflower, too.
Then there is this beast which will grow up into I don’t know what kind of moth/butterfly.
But this is the winner of the grand prize: elephant hawk moth caterpillars! I have at least three in the garden. How cool is that?! (If only I’d been luck enough to see the moth that laid the eggs. That would be a sight!)
And what did I do to win this prize? I didn’t have the heart to rip out the literally HUNDREDS of willowherbs (of 2-3 different species) growing on a Hugelkultur horseshoe shaped “hill” I set up last year because the garden is dying for some topography and did a combination of plant with plants and let nature take its course and that course turned out to be mainly willowherbs Apparently, elephant hawk moths and their larvae chow down on willowherbs (although I can also tell you, the caterpillars don’t turn their noses up at arugula either). So, yay! A win for me for being what everyone around here considers a terribly untidy gardener. (and that’s if they’re putting it politely). But somebody around here has to be an oasis for native plants and insects!
And if you think oasis is boasting, you have not come around to see my disinclination to clear the yard of weeds (they don’t get to grow everywhere, but there are plenty of places where I have let them do their thing).