Monday, July 20, 2009

Good Moths and Bad Butterflies

Moths and butterflies are popularly believed to sit on opposite ends of the good-evil spectrum. Moths are often listed among the ranks of the villains of the insect world, and butterflies generally likened to angels, fairies, and other sweet, precious things.

In reality, there are "good" moths, and there are "bad" butterflies. Or rather, there are butterflies that can be quite a nuisance.

First, the good moths. I have Luna eggs -- lots of them. And I'd love to give some away. If you have any interest in trying to raise them, either as an ongoing hobby or as a one-time educational opportunity for yourself and/or your kids, please e-mail me. Lunas relatively easy pets, especially if you have easy access to their food supply: black walnut, white birch or sweet gum trees.

Speaking of good moths, I found someone in West Allis, another Giant Silk Moth hobbyist, who wants to trade eggs with me. He is raising Cecropias, Polyphemus and Monarch butterflies. I've always wanted to raise both Cecropias and Monarchs, and he doesn't currently have any Lunas. So today I'm supposed to drive out to his place, where he raises his moths in a large outdoor cage he uses to allow the mating females to "call" any males in the area with their scent hormones. Should be interesting.

Oh, and in my geekiest move yet, I started a Facebook fan page for Saturniinae. If you are on Facebook and like these amazing creatures as much as I do, please become a fan by searching on the name of the group: Giant Silk Moths.

Re: the bad butterflies. I harvested my first two brocoli florets late last week. Just took a kitchen knife and sawed off the biggest pieces. They were green and flawless, but for one thing -- caterpillars, small ones, hiding beneath each floret. And of course, I didn't discover this until *after* I blanched the brocoli for a pasta salad I was going to bring to a dinner with friends.

Had I bought this brocoli from the store and found it covered with worms, I might have tossed it right into the garbage, or perhaps the compost bin. But I painstakingly grew this brocoli myself. I wasn't going to give up on it that easily. So I very slowly examined each and every tiny bit to remove the half-boiled caterpillars. Needless to say, my children did not want to touch my "worm salad." My friends and Steve politely ate the salad, as did I. It tasted fine, and I'm fairly certain I got all the worms out, but I still ate every bite in terror that a forgotten worm would be revealed on someone's fork.

The pale green caterpillars are the offspring of a creature one might mistake as beneficial pollinator, a charming white butterfly that flits happily over one's vegetable garden before laying eggs all over the place.

I'm not sure how to handle something like this in the future. My understanding is that the best remedy for these or any "cabbage worms" is to remove the caterpillars as you find them and then squash them underfoot. I don't want to spray them with anything toxic -- that's surely far worse than finding unappetizing but probably healthy caterpillars on your food.

If anyone has a good organic worm removal method, please share. It's an icky sort of problem to have, to say the least. And I have yet to see what is revealed when I harvest the cabbages and cauliflower florets that are growing in the same square foot garden those charming white butterflies seem to love desecrating with their eggs.

No comments:

Post a Comment