The aliens have landed!! No…..they are not aliens! They’re natives!This is the caterpillar of the Sycamore tussock moth (Halysidota harrisii). Adorable, right?
Q:) What does he, the spaceship, and the economy all have in common?
A:) They all benefit greatly from a soft landing!
Upon reading Chapter 8: Restoring Insects, the Little Things That Run the World, in Nature’s Best Hope, A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard, by Tallamy I had a realization.
There was a large American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) tree in our backyard that had some root exposure, making it difficult to maintain the lawn. So, we removed the lawn! Our “a-ha! moment” came when we decided it was time for the Sycamore to become a garden all its own, supporting the whole life cycle of a caterpillar where a layered landscape offers a spot for pupating caterpillars. (The tussock moth uses the Sycamore as its host plant).
Creating a Layered Landscape, or as we affectionately call it, a caterpillar garden went something like this last year:
In our caterpillar garden at approximately 540 sq feet, we have small shrubs like the Red Buckeye, Pale Pink Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) and some shade loving natives like:
Dwarf Joe Pye Weed
Great Blue Lobelia
Some Black-eyed Susans made their way into the garden as well, from a neighboring location. But…you can’t rake up or tidy in the fall! Let all that “black gold” as Tallamy refers to it decompose and provide a safe hiding spot all winter and into spring when the lifecycle begins anew.
It was only planted last spring of 2021 and yet, the growth is substantial. Seeing a hummingbird nectaring on the Bee Balm ‘Jacob Cline’ (Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’) just last month was an added cherry on top! Hummingbird, not captured on camera! They are too fast!