Sunday, September 7, 2014


The monarch butterfly is an amazing creature. This insect migrates from Canada and the United States to Mexico, overwinters, and then migrates back again. But the insects that migrate to Mexico have never been there. In fact, it is the great-great-great grandchildren that somehow know the way to the specific groves in the mountain forests of Mexico.

But the Monarch, like many creatures on earth these days, is in serious decline. Over the past twenty years monarch populations have fallen by 90% (source). There are three main threats to the survival of the butterfly. Habitat loss, which is a problem for many species in distress. Herbicides, such as the popular Roundup, which kills the milkweed plants on which the monarch depends, and recently severe winters, which would not have been such a problem had the population been healthy.

That's why we were so happy to find these in the garden this morning.

Monarch caterpillars.

On our butterfly weed.

We found seven fairly large caterpillars on the plant (you can see three in the image above).

Here's a better look at the one on the left in the three-for image above.

We have only two butterfly weed plants and only one has caterpillars. And the plant does not appear to have been badly eaten, which one would expect with this many large munchers on it.

And we have no other milkweed on our property (it was already on the list for next year, as we plan our butterfly garden). A friend who volunteers at a local nature center is bringing us some, so these guys won't go hungry.

It is a mystery as to where these guys came from and what they have been eating to grow this large. Monarchs are very particular as to food plants. And as I noted, we have no other suitable plants for them.

Regardless of where they came from we are happy they are here. We'll do our best to see that they leave our property as butterflies, on their way to Mexico.

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