Well, if you follow me, you know I love butterflies and they generally love me. They dance and pose for me and they visit me out back every morning. However, I had a front yard butterfly dilemma this past month when huge brown and orange caterpillars began to feed on one of my favorite plants, the Dutchman’s Pipe. I planted it two years ago and have babied and nurtured it into a six-foot tall, full, gorgeous vine that was producing tons of these flowers. Although it is a tropical plant, it even survived a Florida winter, where we do occasionally get a frost.
When I saw the ugly caterpillars, I didn’t know what to do. Obviously, I couldn’t kill them since I love butterflies. Well, I picked some of them off the plant but then decided to wait it out because Monarch caterpillars live on my Passion Flower vines and that plant has done well, even if the leaves do get chewed. I did do research and learned that these new caterpillars would be Goldrim Swallowtails and they don’t eat leaves, they suck the sap from the vines.
Now, I was worried. Eventually they turned into butterflies and flew away, not even one photo op. The vines were weakened but with some pruning and plant food, the plant seemed to recover. What I wasn’t expecting was another big old batch of caterpillars, but that’s what I got. I knocked as many off as possible, but when I left for a few days and came home, the vines were dead with only a few leaves left alive. Again the caterpillars had blossomed into butterflies, but I never even saw one of the murderous beauties. Gone. No thank you, nothing.
I was so sad that the caterpillars had destroyed such a beautiful, healthy plant, a plant that I really love. I have been feeding and nurturing it again, but I don’t think it’s going to recover. Although a few leaves remain, the twisted vines are brown and withered. I went out there today and a large butterfly flew around me and I instantly recognized it from the research I had done on the caterpillars.
It wouldn’t hold still for pictures but it actually let me hold it and it stayed in my hand for a minute. It was pretty, but I wanted my plant back. I told the one returnee that it better not be dropping off more babies, but it seemed to have a devil may care attitude and it didn’t show any remorse for having killed the Dutchman’s Pipe. I am going to try to find another Dutchman’s Pipe to plant but I don’t know if I can protect it from these ravenous creatures. It flew around my Ivy plant, which also has vines and checked it out for a while. I don’t think so. That plant is coming back in the house.