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Mid-Atlantic Regional Reports

Gardening for Caterpillars | Mid-Atlantic Regional Report

Larva of polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus). Photo: Nancy J. Ondra.

For so many years, the focus of gardening has been on growing food and flowers. Now we’re thinking beyond what we want for ourselves to what our gardens can do for the world around us too.

Consider butterflies, for instance. It’s no longer just about growing nectar-rich flowers to attract the beautiful adults for our enjoyment. Today’s gardeners realize that it is also vitally important to provide the host plants that their larvae (commonly called caterpillars) feed on. Granted, the term “caterpillar gardening” may not have the same allure as “butterfly gardening,” but this is a more complete view of the role you can play in supporting their continued health and survival.

It is interesting to note that some butterflies and moths can work with a variety of host plants, while others have very specific needs. Eastern black swallowtail, for instance, will lay eggs on dill, fennel,…

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