Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Monarch Madness

I'm worried about our caterpillars.

A few months ago, I bought native pollinator plants and put in a butterfly garden in my mother's backyard. I wanted to attract native and beneficial insects, and I was surprised when the butterflies started visiting my flowers almost immediately. The main butterflies that I've seen flitting around in the garden are monarchs and zebra longwings, both beautiful in their own way. I was over the moon when I found the first caterpillar on the milkweed, the monarch butterfly's favorite food. These soon-to-be monarchs (fingers crossed) must eat almost constantly to become butterflies. It was amazing to see the caterpillars grow as they chomped on the milkweed leaves, often leaving the plants barren within a day. But by the next day or two, the plants' leaves had usually replenished.

I never thought too much about it, until our caterpillar population exploded. Now it's not one or two caterpillars, but 4 or 5 crawling around on the milkweed in various stages of growth, from babies to fatties nearly ready to turn into a chrysalis before becoming a butterfly. Yesterday morning, the milkweed plant that the caterpillars had been feasted on was completely decimated and the caterpillars were nowhere to be found. I have another milkweed plant but the two are far enough away from each other that the caterpillars had not found their way over, except for one. So Norbert and I hunted around the butterfly until we located each and every caterpillar and placed them gently on the last remaining milkweed plant. At this point, its 3 stems were all full of green leaves, but I knew it wouldn't last long.

This morning, the last of my milkweed was decimated and the other plant didn't miraculously come back with lush greenery over night, as I had hoped. I only located two caterpillars and they seem distraught. One was crawling around on the wood shavings looking a bit skinny, in my eyes. Another one was checking out the scorpiontail, a native flower but not one that is food for monarchs.

Somehow, however strangely, I feel responsible for their lives since, in a way, I brought them here by planting milkweed. And now my supply has dwindled! I think my only option is to go out and find/buy more milkweed plants. Like any pet owner, the life of our animals is in our hands!

Wish these babies luck!

PS We saw our first hummingbird in the garden! Plant flowers and magic follows!