Friday, September 14, 2012

Ravenous Wildlife on the Wing

Yesterday was another one of those crazy days where I worked all morning and barely left the house. But it was just as well, because I was worn out from a long walk the day before, as well as the meeting I mentioned in yesterday's post. Staying home was kind of a relief.

While I worked at the dining room table, my books and papers and computer spread in front of me, a white butterfly came and flitted around on our balcony. It was particularly taken with our horseradish plant, returning to it again and again. As I watched, I realized it was laying eggs.

I thought, Aha! This is the parent of our horseradish caterpillars! So I ran and got the camera and waited until I could snap this slightly blurry photo -- which was surprisingly hard to do because the silly butterfly just would not stop moving.

Finally I got enough of an image that I could try to identify it. And just my luck -- this appears to be a Large White, also known as the dreaded Cabbage White, "the bane of allotment holders all over the British Isles," according to this site. "The larvae of this species can reach pest proportions, and decimate cabbages to the point that they become mere skeletons of their former selves."


You know, here I am, trying to do all I can to let nature gently unfold on my balcony -- and I get a pestilential butterfly! What are the odds?!

(Remember last December's evil ladybug?)

In this case, I'm not certain about my identification -- there's a chance this butterfly is actually a Small White, but that's only marginally better. And I don't think it's the same butterfly that laid our earlier caterpillars, because they didn't look like the caterpillars of the Large or Small White.

I suppose all the classification is sort of silly. After all, it's just a bug, leading its bug life. It doesn't think it's a pest, you know? How can we blame it for liking to eat the same sorts of things we do?

Nonetheless, I'm debating whether I should remove the eggs from the plant. The butterfly laid approximately 53 million of them. (I'm reminded of that scene in Futurama where Richard Nixon asks Morbo, "How's the family?" Morbo replies, "Belligerent and numerous.") If I let them go our horseradish will be toast. Fortunately, the butterfly was utterly uninterested in any of our other plants, and hopefully the larvae will be too.

(Top photo: A blue, blue house against the blue, blue sky, Notting Hill.)


  1. Love it -- maybe a little blasting with water?

    That blue house and blue sky photo astonishes --

  2. BLUE! Love that photo! Was this taken lately? Looks more like a house in Mexico than London with that bright color.

    I think I have those pesty little butterflies at my house too! They've been flitting around for the past few days and while at Skylands yesterday I saw a bunch there. Maybe you should just let it go and wait to see if anything comes of all those eggs. You can easily pick the little buggers off if they do become caterpillars, right?

  3. I would just pluck off the offending stems and leaves where the eggs are. But that's just me. Or maybe I'd totally ignore the whole thing. It is very, very hard to get a good shot of a butterfly, isn't it?

    That blue picture, like Lynne said, looks so much more Mexican than English. Or Mediterranean. I love it.

  4. That looks like cabbage butterflies we see - thank goodness I HATE cabbage. Ha! And yes, those particular ones are the dickens to get a picture of.

    Oh oh oh I LOVE the blue picture! So lovely...

  5. These photos SEND me! Rapture!!! I also had a butterfly land on the sill by my Mom's photo and die there in such a lovely way- I can't help but think magically about it.

  6. Ok, first, that blue house is almost the exact color of the sky on that day. Stunning. What are the odds.

    Second, ummm well I would hate to kill the eggs. Caterpillars and butterflies are bird food. I would hate for you to disrupt the ecosystem. LOL j/k but if they hatch and start eating the horseradish just get rid of the caterpillars.

    I don't know. It will be interesting to see how it all develops.

    Ms.M's Blog
    A Teacher's Plan

  7. it would be pestilential, right? I'd be just as likely to let it be considering I didn't have any cabbages.

  8. I'll tell you all how I handled the butterfly spawn in a blog post in a day or two. I started to write it out here but it just takes too long to explain!

    Thanks for the comments re. the blue photo -- it was amazing how the sky and the house were virtually the same shade.

  9. Fine photography with a good read. The format works well on a phone too. First time I've read the Joni quote. Chiaroscuro rocks! Best wishes to you Steve.