Members of the Northeast Tennessee Master’s Association of Gardeners have been wrestling with local plants growing in the historic Tepton-Haynes state last week.
The group was counting the number of caterpillars feeding on the local dairy farm. It was the first day in a few weeks that Bethesch and colleagues saw the tiny tiny insects that would become royal butterflies.
“Today we counted eight caterpillars,” Leach said Thursday. Generally, at the end of July we begin to see caterpillars emerge.
Last year, the association counted 120 caterpillars in the garden. Of these, about 65 puppies arrived before they became butterflies.
The caterpillar count is part of the garden’s work to protect the Tepton-Haynes-certified royal road station. The team has taken care of the garden, which includes three chickens, black-eyed Susan, Joe Paye weed and cardinal flowers since 2013.
Milwaukee serves as the primary source of food and the only host plant for northeastern kings. It is a place where they lay their eggs and when they enter the crystal stage, the caterpillars feed on them.
Once the royal butterflies appeared, Leach said he would rely on milk and other nectar for food before embarking on his annual Southern migration to Florida and Mexico in the fall.
The Gardeners Association also owns a certified royal road station in the historic Park of Siekmore Schools, Elizabeth.
To be a certified road station, a garden must have at least 10 dairy products from two different species.