I saw somewhere that butterflies are in decline. Maybe it was refering to a specific type because I've never seen so many as this year. Large and small white have been a menace for the kale. Peacock butterflies like our nettles, and they are welcome to them, but they also love the Buddleias which they share with the red admirals. I've seen plenty more, including a speckled wood butterfly, but unless I manage to snap a picture I'm hopeless at identifying them.
Anyway, we have been in battle with the large and small white butterfly, not known as cabbage white for nothing. We deployed two main tactics: butterfly netting and decoy plants, namely nasturtiums. Despite our best endeavours something has still eaten the kale, caterpillars of the small white are the main culprit. The large white seemed to prefer the nasturtiums which they could reduce to stalks overnight. At first we picked off the leaves when we saw the neat clusters of yellow eggs but soon we realised that either we would remove all the leaves or we could leave them for the caterpillars to hatch, tiny at first but soon thanks to the abundant food, large writhing eating machines.
We got the cage over the kale quite early, although not before we had seen a couple of the white threats flying over the garden - more interested in each other than our small plants. We scrambled as though the three minute warning had gone off and hastily constructed a cage using the poles from our gazebo to support the mesh, of which we had plenty. The frame for our previous butterfly cage had long since rotted (through neglect and lack of use) and although we had browsed many fancy cage sytems we wanted to test our ability to grow stuff before spending more money on equipment or more wood. Maybe a mistake but I don't want the webmaster to keep telling me it is cheaper to buy vegetables from the supermarket.
So the cage was errected and the mesh attached. We checked carefully to make sure it was secured on all sides and there were no gaps for the caterpillar producing fiends to enter.
But however sure we were of the security the little bastards got in. The webmaster is sure he saw them squeeze through the mesh. No really! He is. Through double layers of the mesh.
We checked the kale and found a few eggs and caterpillars which we quickly despatched. For quite a while we thought we had escaped, the kale was unscathed.
We harvested our first leaves (above right) and they were just perfect. But a week latter, the lacey and cropped leaves appeared overnight. The caterpillars, unlike the brazen stripey monsters devouring the nasturtiums (above left) were well hidden. Our battle was lost. We'd have to share our kale with the wildlife.