Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Munch, Munch, Munch

Today while I was out working in the garden, I made an exciting discovery. Perhaps thrilling is a better word. I was so overjoyed to discover that for the first time the butterfly weeds (Asclepias tuberosa) were covered with monarch caterpillars.


I have struggled growing butterfly weeds. They are suppose to be very easy to grow but after three years mine are still one stalk plants with a few blooms. The butterfly weed is a species of milkweed which is the only host plant for the Monarch Butterfly.

I counted 16 caterpillars on my 6 plants all at various stages of growth.


The Monarch caterpillar will shed its "skin" as it grows as it is more like a shell and doesn't grow with the caterpillar. Remarkably, the caterpillar will eat this skin because it is full of vitamins that helps the caterpillar to grow and be healthy.


At the rate they are eating soon there won't be much left of the butterfly weeds. In nature approximately 2-5 caterpillars that hatch from the hundreds of eggs that the butterfly has laid will make it to adulthood. I am keeping my fingers crossed for these little guys.


Of course my butterfly weeds may not be producing their lovely orange blooms this year. But that is fine. I planted these for the butterflies whether they use them for nectar or as a host plant. It is all good with me.


I will be on the lookout for the chrysalis that look like a jade jewel. With any luck, in a few weeks I will have some Monarch butterflies eclosing in my very own backyard.

16 comments:

  1. What a great thing, but I guess, not for the plants. They sure are good photos of the caterpillars. At least the birds won't get your little guys since the are not too tasty after feeding on milkweed.

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  2. Lovely caterpillares you have there. I hope you also have lots of nectar plants nearby where the adult butterflies will sip later.

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  3. I usually can't bear looking at creepy crawlies, but these caterpillars are beautiful.

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  4. I dont mind the lovely butterflies but not the caterpillars! But still Im also not getting rid of those munching caterpillars now, to encourage more butterflies in my garden..at the expense of my lovely veggetables going bald! *Sigh...

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  5. How exciting! I hope many of the caterpillars make it through all of the stages.
    My milkweed was just getting established last year - no blooms and not a lot of foliage either. But it's coming back strong this Spring and I hope to see some caterpillars on it!

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  6. Great photos, lucky you to have caterpillars. The good thing about host plants is that most can be munched right down to the ground and come right back as part of the plan. I expect you'll see orange blossoms later in the summer. Asclepias have tap roots that go deep -- so deep that a forest service plow didn't kill one growing in a fire break here.

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  7. How exciting! and after reading NellJean's post it looks like you will probably get flowers anyway which is a wonderful bonus.

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  8. Fantastic! How exciting. Lets hope they grow up to be big and strong.

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  9. I hope to see some of these beauties this year...I plan to stake out the butterfly flowers and milkweed

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  10. I have thought of planting these before - they are supposed to draw aphids away from roses - but never knew the caterpillars loved them so! Amazing how many you have! Your garden will be full of butterflies!

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  11. Love the photos. Thanks for posting them. I'd love to see that scene here myself but have not so far, maybe this year but mine is just up a little so far this year here. Please keep us posted with updates.
    Cher
    Goldenray Yorkies

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  12. Great shots of the larvae. One of the plants on my list this year is to buy some milkweed. I always plant lots of parsley for the Black Swallowtail, but I don't have any milkweed.

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  13. Thanks Kirsten!

    GWGT, when I checked on them the next day they had already eaten down one plant. I just have a stalks sticking up out of the ground.

    Andrea, I do! The butterfly bushes aren't blooming yet but I have plenty of others that the butterflies love.

    b_a_g, I find that the caterpillars that turn into butterflies are usually prettier than those that turn into moths or are pests in the garden. Of course there are a few exceptions.

    p3chandan, I hope your munching caterpillars will turn into beautiful butterflies!

    Ginny, it is so exciting to be able to see all the stages in ones own backyard. My kids love it! I hope you get some on your milkweed this year. It took a few years for them to find mine.

    NellJean, thanks for the info. It appears that they have left the blooms and eaten all the foliage. I may have some blooms without the leaves. Mother Nature knows best!

    Marguerite, DD & Donna, thank you...some of the caterpillars have gone already so I am keeping my fingers crossed!

    HolleyGarden, I hadn't heard that! Good to know. I have LOTS of aphids in the garden this year, more than normal. As a result I also have a lot more ladybugs!

    Sunray Gardening...hope you will see some soon. I will definitely post any other sightings. Stay tuned...

    The Sage Butterfly, last year we enjoyed watching the Swallowtail caterpillars on the parsley. They are also very pretty caterpillars and we had lots of swallowtail fluttering around the garden. Definitely get some milkweed. The more host plants the better!

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  14. I admit, seeing the crawly caterpillars gives me a little shiver up my back, but how neat to be able to watch the process. When my kids are a bit bigger, I should overcome the shivery feeling and see if I can plant some - great learning experience!

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  15. A butterfly weed came into my yard by its own somehow as I never planted it. Thus far, no caterpillars on it. But we did have caterpillars munching on the Dill Weed. My butterfly weed is full of buds and should be blooming soon...

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"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your soul"

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