What Are Host Plants?

Blog 2
May 29, 2020

Host plants are big part of the insect world, so today we’re talking all about them! Keep reading to learn which species relies on which host plant, which caterpillars you might find in your garden, and more!

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What is a host plant?

Host plants are plants that an organism lives on and lives off of. Think of the pickiest eater you know. They might not like a wide variety of foods, but they probably still eat more than one thing. Imagine only being able to eat one thing. That’s what it’s like for insects who have a specific host plant! The most common host plant people think of is milkweed, which is a host plant for monarch caterpillars. This photo is of a monarch egg on a milkweed leaf.

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Caterpillars in your garden!

There is a big crossover between the types of plants we typically grow in vegetable gardens and the plants that insects have as host plants! Black swallowtail caterpillars are a common sight in gardens because their host plants include carrots, dill, and fennel. The cabbage white caterpillar feeds on cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and mustard. The tomato hornworm feeds on tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant.

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Meet the dogbane beetle!

This beautiful iridescent beetle is the dogbane beetle! As you might guess from its name, dogbane is its host plant. Although the dogbane plant has poisonous compounds in it, the dogbane beetle has the ability to eat this plant without being harmed! Bug expert Allen introduces us to this cool beetle in the video below.

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