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.