long-tailed skippers use beans as a host plant, and we're proud to announce our first crop has arrived.
Last season we found some of these fellows on some hairy-pod cowpea growing wild near our yard, but cowpea can be tricky to start from seed, so we went with standard green beans in My Florida Backyard to provide a host plant for this species.
Long-tailed skippers are leaf-rollers. Very small caterpillars eat in from the edge of the leaf to cut a section to roll around themselves. They do this by spinning a bit of silk that shrinks when it dries, curling the leaf in. When they're bigger, they simply use the same method to roll up the entire leaf around them. This gives them a safe place from which to eat while protected from predators. Pretty clever, huh?
Of course, this clever behavior causes farmers and most gardeners to view this caterpillar as a pest. Understandable, if your goal is a crop of yummy green beans. But in My Florida Backyard, a crop of caterpillars makes us perfectly happy!