Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Monarchs Eating Their Skin

Asclepias tuberosa, sullivantii, and incarnata (red and 'Ice Ballet') all have caterpillars. Even the mystery weed I yanked out of a viburnum rootball this spring and stuck in a 15 gallon pot with leftover dirt has turned out to be a milkweed, with 3 babies (and plenty of aphids). A total of 12 caterpillars so far, from the barely seen to 2" in length. One of the images above shows, I assume, the last molting--gobbled up soon after by the little guy / girl. It's my first year doing this, and it's quite a treat. Hope to have more pics soon of later stages. They grow FAST! My milkweeds are from Prairie Nursery, check them out.
Have some facts:
--Females lay 100-300 eggs in their short lifetime (just weeks), and the eggs hatch in 4 days.
--There are 5 stages for the caterpillar, or instars, that last 10-14 days. Each stage the skin gets shed.
--Then the pupal or chrysallis stage lasts 10-14 days.
--This last, late summer batch will be the ones that go to Mexico to overwinter. Hopefully.


Anonymous said...

Very cool, I love how colorful even the caterpillars are at this stage. Wonderful pics!

Frances, said...

Lucky you with the weed in the viburnum turning out to be milkweed! Our red is covered in the yellow/orange aphids and red and black beetley looking milkweed bugs. And the caterpillar of milkweed moths, but no monarchs. We are loaded with eastern swallowtails, they cover the bronze fennel we grow just for them, but no monarchs. Do take lots of photos for us so deprived.

Les said...

I was beginning to wonder if I would have any catapillars this year, when yesterday a neighbor pointed them out. Like Frances, it is the bronze fennel in my yard that is their plant of choice.

Benjamin Vogt said...

PG--Oh, I know! Just awesome colors.
Frances--I have the same bug problems, both kinds. I'll have to research the beetle-like ones--I was hoping they'd be eating the aphids as I don't want to spray soapy water with monarchs about. I keep meaning to do bronze fennel--too late now. We still get several swallowtails, both the regular and the black, though.
Les--Glad you have something! It makes me very happy to be seeing these things in my own garden. Odd, in some ways, as I think culturally we're trained to not have childish wonder and enjoy simple pleasures in the natural world post 13--or 10, anymore.

WiseAcre said...

The first shot is great. I'm glad you linked a larger image so we could get a better look. That caterpillar looks good enough to eat.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I've never had a single caterpillar on my Milkweeds either. I'd better get me some Fennel. Great shots of these neat critters.

Benjamin Vogt said...

WA--A fe second in the deep fry and it was good.
MMD--So strange about your milkweeds. I guess I'm just lucky.

Anonymous said...

We have so many monarch caterpillars this year that I spend an hour on most days just watching them. Eggs, eyelash-size caterpillars and big ones that have become more black than their cousins.

I can't find their chrysallis either. Swallowtail chrysallis yes, but no matter how much time I spend searching I can't find any in the Monarch's bed of milkweed and nectar flowers.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Martha--Oh my, you and me both! This morning first thing after getting up, instead of writing I go outside and try to take count of the 5 big ones. I only see 1, but find two on the garden / yard border. I put one on a butterfly bush, and the other on a sumac. The former is now under a morning glory leaf near the bush, and the latter is on the sumac, still. They move so fast! Another this evening fell off the milkweed, and within a few minutes had crawled 10 feet to the fence (I got him back, though). I've been debating about putting one in an old aquarium just to watch them change, but feel sorta bad about that.... Thank goodness for the time to watch these cool creatures!