Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

While some caterpillars like to eat apples, plums or watermelons, the monarch caterpillars in our yard like to eat the swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnate) we planted in the mini-meadow.

You can see they have stripped these milkweeds bare. The caterpillars eat almost non-stop for 10-14 days.  Just a week ago I counted 10 caterpillars munching away.

But not to worry, these milkweeds are hardy.

They are already growing new leaves.

After the very hungry caterpillars have eaten their fill, they must find a sheltered place to make their chrysalises.  Never fear, these little eating machines know where to go.

They move from the swamp milkweed at one end of the meadow ...

... to the goldenrod (solidago sp.) at the other end of the meadow about 10 yards away.  For us that may not be far, but for those who inch their way along it is about ~ 360 inches.

But down the garden they march to make their temporary jeweled home.

Can you find the 2 chrysalises in the photo above?   (click the image to bigafy)

Here is one of them.  

What smart creatures, Goldenrod (solidago) is an important food source for monarch butterflies, and this Goldenrod is just starting to bloom. During the pupal stage the transformation from larva to butterfly is completed in about 14 days.

Once these butterflies emerge, they will begin an epic 4830 mile migration to the Oyamel fir tree forests in Michoacan, Mexico.

Fueled by goldenrod and other fall wildflowers. 


Thanks to Patty Rehn for guest blogging. All words and images copyright Patty Rehn.


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