Four years ago, weeds around the storm drain attracted black swallowtail caterpillars, and our first “butterfly garden” took seed. Swallowtails are generalist, eating many different plants, so they were easy to please. I should have left it at that.
But of course, I didn’t.
I wanted Monarch caterpillars to make my garden home so I bought the plant that is their specific host plant, milkweed.
But they bit off more than I could chew. Quickly my monarch caterpillar population devoured the Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) before I had time to run to the nursery to get more.
Then a funny thing happened. They moved on to my Common Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes).
Flabbergasted, I e-mailed my colleague horticulturalist Russell Harris of the LSU AgCenter. He explained that if a caterpillar does not have the proper host plant, it will often eat other plants in an effort to survive, but the plants usually do not sustain them.
So I’m curious what other plants have you seen a Monarch Caterpillar eat?