The Massacre In The Garden

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I cannot keep a plant alive for love nor money. Saying that, there is a healthy little Jade Plant on my desk at home that is thriving. It was a gift from a friend. Sometimes when I’m working I share my drink with it, it doesn’t seem to need much which is handy.

Outside of that, everything dies. Everything. I’d given up any inclination of being a ‘plant’ person, and it helped that we didn’t really have a garden.

Earlier this year we moved into a new beautiful house with a huge beautiful garden. We were gifted a little pouch of bee bombs which we scattered in the back of the garden. I held little hope for a successful plant.

Imagine my surprise when a few weeks later green things started sprouting! I made sure to stay well back, refusing to even go near them in case my very presence murdered the shoots.

As the greenery grew, so did my bravery. I ventured near.

Not being a ‘plant’ person, I had no idea what we were looking at. My limited experience with greenery has led me to believe that anything with a spiked leaf is probably a weed. Some of the leaves were only slightly spiked, perhaps better described as edgy.

At the suggestion of a friend, I downloaded one of those free plant identifying apps, it’s very clever. You take a picture of the leaves and it tells you what the plant is, how healthy it is, and how to take care of it. Surely even someone with the plant death touch like me couldn’t go wrong with this technology?

I very much enjoyed spending ten minutes a day taking pictures and digging up anything that was a weed, watering and tidying up the area. The pride I felt was akin to watching my children in their school assembly’s.

One day, we spotted a few small caterpillars on one of the plants. They were squiggly and a gross, but the kids were fascinated. I googled how damaging they were going to be to my green things and it seemed that they while they would eat the leaves they would probably do no lasting damage to the plants themselves. We decided to leave them and let them eat the greenery so we could watch them become butterflies. It was all very exciting.

It turned out that there were hundreds of them. Every time we went up the garden to have a peek we saw a handful more having a munch. I admit, I was a bit sullen about my plants. The kids were thrilled, we left them be. At some point soon they would have eaten their fill and begin their transformation. I reasoned that after that I could get something to put on my plants to prevent another caterpillar invasion, there were far too many of them in all honesty. As exciting as having a hundred butterflies pop out one day was, it was also slightly alarming.

Where would they go? What would they do? Would they breed? Would each caterpillar produce another hundred more? Where would it end?

I needn’t have worried.

Nature, you see, has its own way.

It was a normal Monday. Or so we thought. The children and I headed up the back of the garden to check on our caterpillars. Surely any day now we would start to see cocoons?

The first thing I noticed at the end of the garden was a heavy wasp presence that I hadn’t noticed before. Sure, the odd one or two throughout the day, but on this occasion there was a handful of them zipping about. My first thought was that there might be a wasp nest nearby, which didn’t sound like something I wanted to have to deal with.

The next thing we noticed were two savage wasps tearing apart one of our caterpillars on the big leaf of the sunflower. We were too late to do anything about it, the curled up caterpillar was already missing half it’s body. The wasps darted in and out, tearing off huge chunks of the caterpillar and flying away with it, only to return moments later for another lump of flesh.

Safe to say the kids were traumatised.

I watched, sickened and a little bit fascinated. I hadn’t realised that wasps ate caterpillars. Naively I guess I just assumed they ate flowers or something. It turns out they are savage little bastards.

By the next morning, there was not a single caterpillar left in our garden. They left behind a drying wasteland of chewed up leaves and a sprinkling of tiny black things over everything.

I had hoped it would be a cool educational experience for the children to watch the caterpillars become butterflies, and I guess it was still educational.

They learned a lesson about the circle of life this summer!

I learned that next time I’ll stick some caterpillars in a jar or a box and feed them in safety.

© Emma Stead

21 responses to “The Massacre In The Garden”

  1. Even if you’d kept some of them in a jar or box, I’m afraid they might not all have made it: I did just that with some caterpillars I found in my garden years ago (and I think they were the exact same variety – they turned into cabbage white butterflies). Most were absolutely fine, but one of the green caterpillar cocoons popped out a smaller, black cocoon that turned out to have a fly in it. I can only assume the fly egg was on/in the caterpillar to begin with! Still interesting, but kind of gross.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is very gross 😂 not keen on flies at all. I feel like I had a ‘be careful what you wish for’ experience. I was hoping for an educational experience for the children and that’s exactly what we got 😂😂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a fascinating tale. Loved the journey. I’m also what I call an “accidental gardener” and can relate to your trepidation turned to love. Enjoy what’s left of the summer in your garden.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A blue tit would have thrived on the caterpillars, had it had the chance. Wasps do their bit for the pollination of plants so at least that is something. Beautiful poppies!


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