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.