I was disappointed to only find two swallowtail butterfly caterpillars on my bronze fennel this year. Last year, I counted eight caterpillars. Initially I chalked it up to the dwindling number of butterflies due to habitat loss, climate change, environmental pollution, toxins in the environment, etc.
Then I found a praying mantis. Praying mantis are interesting insects. Besides the fact that the females regularly decapitate males after mating. They are ambush predators, meaning that instead of hunting for prey, they lay in wait for their prey to come to them and then make lightening grabs with their long front legs, seizing their prey before the prey even realize that there is any danger. Their preferred menu includes crickets, grasshoppers, flies and moths. And caterpillars.
Obviously, a bronze fennel plant loaded with caterpillars is a perfect spot for a praying mantis to set up shop. And once all of the caterpillars were gone, so was the praying mantis, off to another likely spot to wait patiently for a meal.