I'm one of those people who purposely grows plants for those hungry caterpillars. When I found we had a Spicebush Swallowtail, I jumped at the chance to purchase a spicebush from the annual native plant sale. The spicebush is the favorite host plant for this butterfly's eggs and caterpillars. I like making my yard hospitable to my favorite creatures.
I love having butterflies and moths in my yard, so that means putting up with some of the damage caused by allowing their children--caterpillars--in my garden. Kids can be a handful. They put everything in their mouth. They break things. They don't always appreciate the hard work we put into making our space beautiful. They can get out of control like the gypsy moth caterpillar, when they are left where they don't belong. Like any child, you need to keep an eye on them.
Then after all the craziness of their youth, they slip into their cocoons and sleep like a teenager.
I know many gardeners that take great pains to keep caterpillars out of their garden beds. They seek perfection by making their yard look untouched. My own yard has a shabbier, wilder appearance. My lawn is full of clover and my garden is full of "weedier" flowers and brambles. But it's also full of butterflies. I like that.
And so another Life Lesson from Watching Animals...
Children can get into everything, but with proper guidance they can grow into beautiful adults.
Author's Note: Pictures are not actually related, they were grouped to illustrate the point. No caterpillars or butterflies were harmed in the making of this post. The damage on the willow is not the fault of the photographer.