While trimming vines and bushes the other day in the yard, the kids noticed that one of the bushes was covered with caterpillars!
We weren't sure what type of caterpillars they were, so we found out the type of plant...Scotch broom. It grows wild throughout California, and it's a plant that we've used for dyeing. Then, we did some research to find out what caterpillars like to eat broom and ended up learning about the genista caterpillar.
Some websites claim that the genista is a "pest" and can defoliate complete bushes and trees in some parts of the US. After observing the caterpillars for a week, we realized that to us, they are not a pest, and although they have been hungrily munching away at the leaves, the bush still has a lot of leaves.
Now, the caterpillars are moving slowly and they have made some interesting-looking webs. We will continue to watch them, hoping to catch the final phase when they become moths! A wonderful person on flickr.com who had pictures of genista told us that the moths will come out of the cocoons at night.
We decided to wait and trim the bush once the caterpillars have become moths. Then, we will take the timmed branches and dye with them, as broom makes a lovely green-yellow color for our handspun yarns!