Thursday, July 09, 2009

Echinacea vs. Checkerspot Caterpillars, Revisited

If you've read my blog for a while, you know that I had an interesting experience pitting young Echinaceas against baby checkerspot butterflies (also known as checkerspot caterpillars) last summer. The last of 3 entries on the subject is here, linked to the prior 2 entries. I discovered that the plants weren't permanently hurt by the seemingly vicious caterpillar attack, at least not last summer. It was, in fact, a perfect example of the best cure being to do nothing but let nature handle the situation on its own, without my interference.

I thought folks might be interested in seeing those same 2 baby Echinacea plants this year.

As you can see, they don't appear to have suffered at all! They are waist high, "full and fluffy" (to quote Barbie), and covered with dozens of blooms.

Interestingly, I've planted several more young Echinaceas in the new half of the flower bed...and they are currently covered with checkerspot caterpillars as I write. The older, "more experienced" plants that dealt with them last year seem to have escaped becoming larva food this year. It makes me wonder if the adult checkerspot females preferentially seek out young plants to lay eggs on, or if the young (newly transplanted) plants are sending out distress signals until they get established...or if this was simply coincidence.
I'll probably never know, but it's interesting to hypothesize and try to figure out what makes sense.

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