How about a quick gardening lesson this morning? About the Silvery Checkerspot Caterpillar that’s doing a number on my echinacea? Seriously! I was only in Orlando one weekend. But during that time, my coneflowers became infested to the point they are downright Halloween-y-ish.
I told you fall was coming early this year…
Ghosts of coneflowers past.
Pretty awful looking, right?
The good news is this infestation is only affecting the coneflowers in the back forty. Okay, not really the back forty (we live in town), but behind the far rock wall. So this particular bed isn’t visible to anyone but John and me. (Our front yard coneflowers are happily providing seeds for the finches that have returned. Knock-on-wood.)
Upon closer inspection, I saw small black caterpillars ALL OVER the leaves and flowers.
One thing I learned from my Arkansas Master Naturalist training is to identify an insect before I start ridding my plants of it. And I’m so glad I did!
After a quick consult with Dr. Googler, I discovered these black caterpillars are silvery checkerspot caterpillars. Silvery checkerspot caterpillars magically morph into silvery checkerspot butterflies. Based on the number of caterpillars in this section of our garden, we should soon be flush with them.
Yes, too much of anything can be a bad thing, and these caterpillars can become super pesty if they infest large areas. But they are considered a good insect in the proper spot in the garden. Luckily, ours are in the right place. Since I’ve been adding native plants and working on expanding my pollinator garden, it seems things are working quite nicely. (If you find these caterpillars in an undesirable area, you can move the little guys to a plant in the back of your garden.)
Soon, I’ll be searching for chrysalises and introducing you to brand new checkerspot butterflies. Fingers crossed and stay tuned.
Nature is sometimes messy, y’all.
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.
Ray Charles, It’s Not Easy Being Green