Grey Butterfly and inchworm. Related?
July 12, 2009
This butterfly caught my eye because as it landed on my eggplant, it moved its back wings back and forth to flash this set of brightly colored orange spots. I’ve never seen this type of butterfly before, and this is also the first year I’ve had inchworms in my garden. Are they related? I also don’t know if these inch worms are good or bad, I maintain an organic garden, but they have destroyed a whole head of lettuce in a single day, is there another plant they might like to eat instead so I don’t have to kill them?
Back yard gardener
Southern California, Mojave Desert Region
Your lovely butterfly is a Gray Hairstreak, Strymon melinus. This is a wide ranging species that has caterpillars that feed on a variety of plants. It is unrelated to the inchworm, which is the caterpillar of a Geometrid Moth. Though we promote tolerance for insects, we have a major problem when certain species feed on our garden produce. We don’t think twice about squashing caterpillars that proliferate on our leafy greens. One or two caterpillars we would tolerate, but droves must go. We actually allow the White Lined Sphinx Caterpillars to feed on our fuchsia, but we do not like eating lettuce or collards that have holes and caterpillar droppings on them.