A better title for this post would be “EATING, EATING, EATING!” The caterpillars don’t lose their appetites after they are moved into the shelter of the porch. Voracious eaters, they will take large bunches of fennel down to the stem in one day.
Before trying to save every caterpillar you see, consider if you have enough host plant for them to feed on. A few year’s ago I found some late caterpillars in Autumn. I ran out of the host plant quickly, so I went to the store and bought an organic dill plant. Little did I know that organic herb plants are often treated with organic control products. The caterpillars did not thrive. Although, these treatments will not harm humans, and are considered organic, they are deadly to caterpillars.
The black cloth beneath the vases is there to capture the frass, or in easy to understand terms, the caterpillar poop. You will be completely amazed at how much they excrete. It is hard, and bounces, so be prepared to find it in unexpected places. I put a piece of garden cloth beneath the vases and that seems to help keep it in control, and also is easy to shake out into the garden beds.
The caterpillars shed their skins several times as they grow. You can see the shedding behind the top caterpillar along the stem. They also rest for periods of time, then wake up and begin again, “Eating, eating and more eating!