Lockdown has been a little lonely with most of us unable to see friends and family.
Luckily for radio presenter Sam Darlatston, 27, he’s had seven extra friends with him for part of the pandemic.
Sam, from London, found some caterpillars in some of his broccoli – bought from Tesco – and decided to care for them until they turned into butterflies.
It started with Sam cooking his favourite vegetable and finding one caterpillar hidden inside, which he decided to keep as a pet before asking his friend to buy him some fresh broccoli.
In case anyone is interested, the name weâve gone with is Cedric, heâs from Spain (at least we assume so because the broccoli is) and he dances after eating spinach and broc all day long
However, when his friend returned, they discovered a further five insects hidden in the latest vegetable.
A third attempt at buying broccoli revealed a seventh – and final – bug, which was transferred into a box in the living room, alongside the others.
Several of the caterpillars, named Broc, Ollie, Cedric, Carlos, Croc, Janine, and Slim Eric, have now evolved into butterflies, with four still cocooned.
Sam said: ‘I didn’t think they would survive if I put them outside straight away.
‘I read that caterpillars only eat their host plant and I didn’t have any broccoli in the garden. So I thought, the best bet is to keep them with some broccoli and they can leave when they’re older.’
Sam researched the Spanish white cabbage butterflies and created a small ecosystem in his living room. As the broccoli came from Spain, he also ensured it would be safe to release the insects into the eco-system in the UK.
However, the paper-lid resulted in several of the bugs escaping into the house, with one cocooning around a scented vanilla stick and another underneath a candle holder.
Sam added: ‘The first one, within three days he was a cocoon, but the last one took around eight days. But I almost fast-tracked them because I gave them unlimited food.
‘Three of them got out and were in the lounge. You’re not meant to move them once they’re cocooned, so one is just in the lounge.
‘My housemates have just embraced it and now come and check how they are.
‘They were alright with it, they were just like, “that’s how lockdown is going then, we now keep caterpillars”.’
The caterpillars did have an impact on his mum though as Sam joked that she was avoiding eating broccoli during a roast dinner because of his new friends.
Tesco agreed to refund him £1.10 for two of the heads of broccoli and said they would log the incident, but Sam wasn’t too worried.
He said: ‘It’s natural, isn’t it? It means they’re not using too many pesticides which is a good thing.’
Tesco said: ‘It seems like a hungry caterpillar made its way into Sam’s broccoli. We’re really sorry about this and apologise to Sam for providing an accidental pet with his greens.
‘We regularly test our fresh produce for quality but as we encourage our growers to move to more natural production methods and greatly reduce the application of pesticides, this can occasionally lead to the very odd insect being found.’