I kill babies! It’s a necessary evil, or they all die from starvation.
I’m talking about monarch caterpillars, of course. Farming them is quite stressful, and I know many of you can relate.
Before social media was overtaken by impending viral threats (which I’m choosing not to write about, because everyone is writing about it and, frankly, I’m no epidemiologist and have no place giving medical advice) the great Oamaru caterpillar food crisis was the top topic in Facebook land.
There are several emotional stages to monarch farming. There’s the excitement as your first baby caterpillars appear, then a sense of calm as you see the lovely wee beasties munching away – it’s peaceful and meditative.
Then it all starts to change.
As stock numbers increase and the food supply decreases, anxiety sets in. Where does one find more desperately-needed swan plants? What to do with excess beasties? (In my world, they are all called Greg, with groups referred to as “the Gregs”).
Facebook groups were set up to swap plants and Gregs, mercy dashes to Dunedin took place to buy up garden centre inventories of swan plants to replenish Oamaru’s stock food.
I started to export livestock, with a dozen Gregs even making their way from Oamaru to Nelson with some Elton John fans.
Gordon Martin lent me an extra swan plant and Gloria Hurst took a container full of Gregs to her giant swan plant to enjoy their remaining days in the country, but the mamma butterflies still returned to lay eggs and the Gregs just kept coming.
It is fortunate the Gregs only eat a specific plant. Imagine the devastation if their choice of food was also our food? They wouldn’t be such attractive pets if they demolished your garden full of kale.
After exhausting all options of Greg management, I got to the point that there was only one thing left to do. Yes, I did the unthinkable – I squashed some.
I’ll admit it. I squashed the tiny ones, but only the tiny ones.
Don’t judge me; it was for the greater good – sacrifice the few to save the big fatties nearing butterfly transformation.
I wasn’t resorting to pumpkin, as some people suggested. It turns out if they eat pumpkin they can become deformed and not reach their full life cycle – my imagination then takes me down a dark path as to what that actually means, so let’s not go there.
I’ve had three big beautiful butterflies fly away and five more to go. If they all reach maturity it’ll make me feel like all the sacrifice was worth it in the end.