Each time I go into the garden, I never seem to miss coming back without a face full of webs, they are everywhere. There’s been a few small slugs and snails around and when dismantling the canes for the French Beans, I had to remove an earwig and a snail from one of the canes, and I now think the holes in the French beans could be caused by an earwig. I never seem to be able to catch them in action to find out who the culprit is. Slugs and snails are silly enough to leave a trail, but the rest of the vandals are a bit more furtive.
Besides our friendly spiders invading the garden at the moment, I see other would-be monsters, little creatures with big ambitions. Checking what initially looked like healthy plants in my home-made propagator, I was surprised to see chunks missing from leaves. This one looks like a leafhopper nibbling the Epazote leaves. Epazote is a Mexican herb dating back to the Aztecs. Although it’s used in cooking, it is poisonous in large quanties. It’s said to have a strong petrol smell and give some relief from discomfort after eating beans. I guess even leafhoppers can have a problem at times.
At the stage where plants are still in trays, any loss of leaf is a big one, so there was I on the warpath to see what made such big teeth marks, and there it was, the cutest, teeny, tiny caterpillar, caught in the act.
I haven’t identified it yet, it was a matt dark grey, almost black with lighter grey underbelly. I picked it up and it curled up, when I put it down on the staging, it uncurled, stretched out to just over one centimetre long and you could just make out it’s tiny head. The bad news was, it’s brothers and sisters were there as well. I picked them all out and took them outside to a tray of salad leaves of which there was an abundance. They may not like them of course. The little caterpillars were tucking into the Texel Greens, their tastes are obviously better than the leafhopper’s. Texel can be grown as a salad crop with cut and come again leaves, it’s fast-growing. It’s roots (pardon the pun) can be traced back to Ethiopian Mustard. Tasting like a combination of spinnach and cabbage, It is hardy and so can be grown in the winter under cover. It’s not fussy on warmer weather and that makes it an excellent winter vegetable.
What a difference to the caterpillar of the Elephant Hawk moth we’d been keeping an eye on, it was at least ten centimetres long. Unfortunately it’s disappeared. In an area pestered by crows and cats, it would make a meaty meal for anything which didn’t mind eating caterpillars.
The markings on this caterpillar help to keep it safe from predators but those large ‘eyes’ are only markings, it’s head is really small and you would need a magnifying glass to see it’s eyes. It apparently gets it’s name from it’s resemblance to an Elephant’s trunk. So as the elephant is one of my favourite animals, it’s more than welcome in my garden. It may of course be pupating so could already be in cocoon. I hope it is still around so that we can see the beautiful moth it will turn into.
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