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.)