no safety in numbers
I read this book to my kids and now I’m reading it to my grandkids. I always enjoyed it but now it churns me up inside … I’ve been rethinking my stance on welcoming wildlife including insects to the garden. It rather depends on the numbers involved.
One egg hatching one caterpillar is delightful. But there was nothing delightful about the hundreds of eggs on each leaf of my still young eucalypts. Initially I did what seemed the most sensible thing to do at the time: just ignore the whole thing.
After a couple of weeks the leaves on the largest of the small eucalypts become brown and see-through like lace. The same thing was starting to happen to the neighbouring even smaller eucalypts. Time to put on my reading glasses to confront the details. Horrors! Caterpillars climbing up and down the trunk and on leaves. Hundreds of them. Eggs still unhatched.
Then I saw a spider. Thank goodness. Here was a natural predator of caterpillars that would help keep the numbers down. From the top rung of the ladder I watched in fascination as the spider approached a largish caterpillar. Come on, I said to it encouragingly. At the spider’s approach the caterpillar loomed upwards swaying menacingly. The spider quite sensibly beat a fast retreat back the way it had come.
Hmm ... time to make a plan. I certainly wasn’t going to use chemical sprays. And I didn’t have the stomach (or finger pressure) to do so much squishing and squashing. So I cut off the affected leaves and put them in the rubbish bin.
Now the tree looks like this.
Yesterday I watched a cute caterpillar moving along a branch of a grevillea shrub. It was blue and white striped and very cute. So far as I could see it was alone. That meant I could afford to be merciful and generous and choose not to use my power to end its life. I look forward to seeing it flying around some time soon as a lovely butterfly.