Every weekend, I listen to (Bob Webster, Shades of Green) the organic gardener on the radio. He says there are certain very desirable plants that we should have in our gardens.
Butterfly weed (asclepias) is one of those plants. They're especially good because the monarch butterfly lays her eggs on them and they are host plants for the monarch butterfly caterpillar.
And, they're also good because they attract beneficial insects to your garden. You will, nearly, always find aphids on butterfly weed. And, the aphids attract beneficial lady bugs. The lady bugs lay their eggs on the plant and their larvae eat the aphids. This happened to me, just a few days ago. I had seen the aphids and was hoping for lady bugs and, here you go! I found this little lady bug on the stem, yesterday. She was being very still and I bet she was laying eggs.
(Aphids are the tiny cream colored specks you see on the back of the leaf on the right.)
A few weeks ago I planted a pot of fennel, parsley and other herbs. I planted the fennel and parsley for the black swallowtail butterfly to lay her eggs. They are host plants for the black swallowtail larvae. Yesterday, when I took this photo, it was almost dark and you can't see the caterpillars too well. I'll take better photos when the sun comes out.
But, I want to tell you that, last night and this morning we had some very hard rains and got 9" of rain.
I was wondering if the tiny caterpillars had been washed away. Finally, when it stopped raining, I went out and there they were!! I can't imagine how they held on through all of those hours of constant, sometimes really hard rain.
Yesterday, I counted 14 black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars on the fennel and I'm sure there were even more. They will eat until it's all gone. Nothing left to eat, so they will head out to weave their cocoons. In a couple of weeks, I'll be watching for newly, out of the cocoon black swallowtail butterflies.