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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Two Hungry Caterpillars

The Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) fluttering around my garden have found the tropical milkweed plants and have begun the next generation of monarch butterflies. These are the caterpillars of the fourth generation that will become the butterflies that will travel south and overwinter in Mexico and southern California. (For details on the 4 generations of monarch butterflies check out this website Monarch Butterflies.


These busy caterpillars are munching on the poisonous leaves of the milkweed. The leaves contain toxins (glycosides) which make the Monarch Butterfly poisonous, but not deadly, to their predators (frogs, birds, lizards, praying mantis). Concentrations of these heart toxins in their bodies may be several times higher than those occurring in milkweed leaves. Animals that eat the butterfly will get sick and remember not to eat them.



The glycosides consumed by the caterpillars are carried forward both into the chrysalis and adult stages. Mother Nature has afforded them an excellent form of protection.



These two hungry caterpillars are hard at work munching away at the leaves crawling from one stalk to the next. In about 30 days they will become these beautiful butterflies.


Hopefully we will see them as butterflies before they depart to make the long migration south for the winter.


Thanks to Lisa for hosting Macro Monday.

24 comments:

  1. I've never seen such beautiful caterpillar. Love that stripe ^_^ Great shot!

    Macro Monday

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  2. These are great photos of the Monarchs and their offspring, Karin. I always wanted the caterpillars in the garden but never went out and got the milkweed. They have the prettiest caterpillars I think. Well them and the ones with 'eyes'.

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  3. Terrific shots, cute caterpillars!

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  4. All I've had in the garden are males. No cats yet. Hope they reach adult.

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  5. They are so bright, both as caterpillars and butterflies.

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  6. Wow! Amazing photos, all of them. I have yet to find a caterpillar myself, so I will live vicariously through you.

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  7. I have seen lots of monarch larvae in blogposts from the US, and everytime i look they are still lovely. We have monarch also here but maybe not included in the migrating group to Mexico. It is the crysippus species unlike your plexippus. I laughed at Donna's comment above, i think she saw the eyes in my post. But those larvae are moths, LOL.

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  8. The butterly is so pretty, and so is that catterpillar.

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  9. Beautiful caterpillars, and beautiful butterflies.

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  10. Oh, so these are monarchs...I've seen their caterpillar in my garden. Can't wait to see the butterflies.Great shots. From a butterfly-fan,
    Rosie

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  11. Monarch butterflies are gorgeous - and the caterpillars instantly recognisable! We have a similar caterpillar here, a moth caterpillar, which is black and orangey yellow stripes and also toxic to predators for much the same reason. Ragwort, the food plant, is toxic. This one changes into the Cinnabar Moth which is very pretty - but it doesn't migrate to another country!

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  12. Caterpillars freak me out but stunning photos!

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  13. Your photos are beautiful. I have yet to photograph a caterpillar but your photographs make me want to try. Great work.

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  14. Wow. Great captures! Those caterpillars are so colorful!

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  15. Jennifer@threedogsinagarden
    A garden can never have too many butterflies. Isn't it amazing that the monarchs have learned to make such clever use of the plant toxins.

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  16. Well, I knew they were avoided by predators, but didn't realize it's because of the poison in the milkweed that builds up. Mind boggling!

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  17. We don't have those where I live... Those caterpillars are spectacular, and I'm also fascinated how not only the wings but the body of the butterfly has those dots!

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  18. Great photos. The antennae? on the caterpillars always make me think of big pointy ears.

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  19. Karin, I finally found the monarch caterpillars in the yard and common milkweed that I never brought in...saw the leaves munched but found the first caterpillar eating milkweed leaves...no chrysalis yet but am hopeful to find one in the wild of the garden...fabulous photos...

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  20. My milkweed plant is coming back after the hurricane, but it is not in good shape to host Monarch larvae. I am hoping it will be ready for next year. Fantastic photos!

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  21. I've seen many, many Monarch's but no caterpillars. We have a large patch of milkweed plants that we left in place for them... I must go check them very carefully! Thanks for reminding me I need to check and see if they are breeding!

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  22. Wonderful shots! Just beautiful captures! Thanks for sharing the information also. Have a great day!

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  23. What a wonderful find! I adore that third picture down. It's like the caterpillar is saying hey!

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  24. Beautiful bright colours in both the caterpillar and the monarch ! We have a large milkweed patch on the back side of the garage and I've seen a number of monarchs flitting about in these late days of summer. I think they'll soon be starting their long migration.

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