Sunday, September 12, 2021

Caterpillar Transfer


Have you ever had to perform an emergency caterpillar evacuation? This monarch butterfly caterpillar is relaxing in its new emergency quarters after being carried across the yard to this host plant.

The plant is an attractive low bushy kind of milkweed called butterfly weed or orange milkweed. In summer it's covered with orange flowers. Now it has pointy seed pods. I grew this from seeds and got it started in the yard a few years ago.

I wanted more of this milkweed, so this spring I planted it in another spot in the yard. The plants were puny, though, so I temporarily filled in around with marigolds. The milkweed did great. It flowered and got bushy. I never got the chance to take a picture of it because, suddenly a few days ago -- this. Do you see the bare stem sticking out of the marigolds? That's one of the new milkweed plants, completely defoliated!

What happened? Just enlarge this photo and count all of the munching monarch caterpillars. I think I see six of them.

Consider the area to the right of the caterpillar, full of fresh delicious milkweed leaves. And to the left, just naked stems. There were hardly any leaves left on this plant. The caterpillars were eating a dwindling supply and getting perilously close to stranding themselves in a sea of unpalatable marigold foliage, which they cannot eat.

So -- they all got carefully carried to the big bush on the other side of the yard where there is adequate food for them to finish their voracious eating stages. It was a long journey in caterpillar miles. Each of them curled up for the trip.

And each of them uncurled and stretched after a few moments in their new digs and recommenced eating. I've transferred eight of them so far. I''m looking forward to upcoming blogs about chrysalises and eclosions.

No comments:

Post a Comment