Two days ago, I gave up on my mint plant, which had been eaten into ragged lace by caterpillars. My wife had gone hunting with a flashlight the previous night and found two fat, green caterpillars, so we thought we’d gotten the perpetrators, but the next day the plant was basically gone. Where it was once healthy and bushy, it was now a collection of stems and leaf veins, with a couple of pathetic leaves remaining near the soil. I pruned the plant down, hoping it would rejuvenate, and tossed the remains in the trash. Then I swept all the caterpillar turds off the veranda — there were a lot! — and dumped them in after.

The next time I opened the trash, there was a fat caterpillar on the lid. I had to laugh and admire the critter’s camouflage, because I never saw it even when I was handling and clipping the stems. I picked it up and tossed it off our veranda into the landscaping below. The plants there aren’t as nice as mint, to be sure, but probably still edible.

A few hours later I opened the trash again and found two caterpillars, one big and fat and the other much smaller. I tossed them off the veranda. Then I gathered up the trash and recycling, took them outside to the collection units, and figured that was the end of that.

Just before bedtime, I found three more caterpillars. Not in the trash this time, but on the floor nearby. They must have been hiding on the outside of the container, or maybe near the fridge. Off they went to join their friends.

Yesterday morning, I found four of ’em over by the veranda door, apparently trying to get out. I assisted them. This batch was looking a lot less hardy than the previous ones, which I ascribed to a full day without food.

That afternoon I opened the trash and found yet another caterpillar — a big fat one this time. How it managed to stay hidden there, even though I’d removed the bag and all its contents, I have no idea.

Today I was reasonably sure that all of the caterpillars had been found and moved to their new home — until about an hour ago, when I opened the trash and found two tiny caterpillars on the lid.

So we’re up to 16 caterpillars so far on that mint plant, and I know there are more because the last bits in the pot, the bits I was hoping would regenerate, are completely eaten down. I must have had the bad luck to buy a starter plant that was housing an entire clutch of eggs. This is the second time in two years that I’ve lost a mint plant to munchers — last year it was snails — and not managed to harvest a single leaf for my own use. I hereby concede defeat. Thank goodness we can buy mint at the market.


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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11 Responses to Caterpillars

  1. Lisa Shaw says:

    Conceding defeat?! That is *so* unlike you. I would expect you to do battle right down to the very last bug. 😉

  2. karmami says:

    Try putting clean egg shells all over your garden works. I laughed when was told this but I tried it and it does keep slugs and caterpillars and other bugs away

    • oregon expat says:

      The thing is, I don’t actually have a garden — I have container plants on tiled verandas. So spreading egg shells isn’t really an option, alas. The cats would probably enjoy it, though!

      • karmami says:

        regardless you can still use them if you want ..if you washed them well the cats won’t touch them…my three cats have was just a suggestion of something that works for me..

  3. Denise says:

    Please feel free to send your caterpillars to Canada, I have the perfect home for them. I have the misfortune of having mint that the previous owner of my home planted in the garden. They didn’t plant it in anything to restrict the roots, and consequently I have to rip mint out of the garden pretty much on a daily basis from late April till mid-October. I’ll send you some mint in exchange 🙂

    • oregon expat says:

      I wish I could! That would be the perfect solution, assuming that my caterpillars are also native to your neck of the woods.

      They probably wouldn’t do too well in the mail, though.

  4. Inge says:

    To rub it in… how come we don’t have beautiful close-ups of those caterpillars?? … *teasing grin*

    • oregon expat says:

      Because I didn’t think about it until after I’d sent all the big, fat ones over the veranda. But take heart, there are probably still some wandering around in the kitchen!

  5. Power Wench says:

    But you ignored the most important question: what kind of caterpillars eat mint??? My observation is that most of the culinary herbs are left alone by chewing insects and their larvae (well, except for swallowtail caterpillars that devour fennel and dill, and when they can’t find either, parsley.) The only insects I ever find on my mint are spittlebugs.

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