Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cats in the Garden


Boo and Ohno
Yes, we have cats in our garden. Every garden needs at least one cat, doesn't it? Ours has six (at the moment). Max, Ohno, Sunny, Boo, Lily and Jack share the duties of patrolling the property and keeping rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, and voles at bay. And they enjoy pretending to be jungle cats as they make their way in and around the dahlias and daisies.

But we have other cats, too. Caterpillars. And right now there seems to be an abundance of them as we head into fall. One day this week, I counted 13 Eastern black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) caterpillars on the parsley, dill, and bronze fennel and 16 monarch (Danaus plexippus) caterpillars on the various types of milkweed that we have growing in Max's Garden. I'm sure there are more. Ironically, I've only seen one Eastern black swallowtail butterfly flying around the garden this summer. But clearly, they've been here.

Monarch caterpillar on Bloomerang lilac leaf. Since they only eat
Asclepias
(milkweed plants), perhaps he's making his way
to the site where he'll form his chrysalis.

Eastern black swallowtail caterpillar on bronze fennel

The two caterpillars look quite similar, with both having stripes, but the swallowtails have black and green stripes with yellow and black dots while the monarchs have black, yellow, and white stripes only. And you won't find either of them on each others' host plants.


Video of swallowtail and monarch caterpillars in our garden




(If you're receiving this via e-mail, this video will not be visible. Click on the title of the blog post - Cats in the Garden - and it will take you to my blog, where you can then view the entire blog post, including the video.)


When I was out inspecting the host plants this week, I happened upon a swallowtail caterpillar shedding his skin. They do this several times as they grow.

Eastern black swallowtail shedding its skin on bronze fennel

The swallowtail cats that pupate in late summer will spend the frigid winter in their chrysalis and emerge from it next spring. Their monarch counterparts will pupate and emerge about 11 days later and then make the long trip to Mexico where they will spend the winter before flying back in the spring. Both are simply miraculous acts.

Adult monarch

If you visit my garden, I'll make you listen to stories about this plant and that one. They're my children, you know, these plants. But I'll also show you the other babies growing in my garden. This spring, it would have been the young frogs that we had by the tens, hopping about the garden, in and out of the little ponds. Today, it's the caterpillars.

Eastern black swallowtail caterpillars on dill



11 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I enjoy seeing all of your garden cats Kylee. All are so entertaining doing what cats do in the garden. It is good to see that you have plenty of caterpillars even after such a weird gardening year weather-wise.

Kirsty @ Bowerbird Blue said...

Just love your caterpillars! Beautiful photos and great information, thanks.

Erin @ The Impatient Gardener said...

I had no idea that caterpillars shed their skin! Pretty amazing that you caught one in the act. How do the four-legged cats do with the chickens?

Rose said...

The photo of the catt shedding its skin is amazing, Kylee. I've seen the various stages of catts in my garden, but I've never seen this before. I am so jealous--usually my fennel and dill are covered with swallowtail caterpillars, but this year I've seen only a few tiny ones. I do have the other kind of cats in my garden, though; in fact, we added one more when Daughter moved back home.

Kaytie @ GardenKitchenHome said...

Those caterpillars are incredible. I don't have anything like it in my urban garden, that's for sure! Another thing I don't have... any more dill! The heat of July ruined mine, unfortunately.

Lona said...

The shots of the Caterpillars are amazing Kylee. I have an abundance of the four legged variety here too. So many feral cats around here. I have not saw a rabbit for years.

Muddy Boot Dreams said...

All those cats, so cute, even the striped ones, LOL.

Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

Amy Junod said...

I love how chubby the swallowtail legs get as they munch away. I grow extra dill for them as they will devour every bit of it.
Great photos!

Tina said...

What gorgeous pictures, Kylee!

Kylee said...

Lisa ~ Yes, I was beginning to think it was an "off" year for butterflies and such, but you sure wouldn't think that now!

Kirsty ~ Thanks, Kirsty!

Erin ~ Caterpillars and butterflies are truly amazing! Our chickens are in a run, so the cats don't really bother them. Although one night, I accidentally shut Max up in the coop with them. (!!!!!) I think that was okay because Max is elderly, generally minds his own business, and he was outnumbered by eight chickens. I imagine he was terrified! :-(

Rose ~ I would live in my garden if I could. There's always so many fun things going on out there at any given moment! How many 4-legged cats do you have, Rose?

Kaytie ~ That's too bad about your dill. This summer has been brutal. Keep your eyes open! You could find cats in your garden, too! Sometimes they're hard to find.

Muddy Boot Dreams ~ Hi Jen! I know! I love them all! :-)

Amy ~ I never even noticed that! I'll have to pay attention to their legs. :-)

Tina ~ Thanks, Tina! :-)

Kylee said...

Lona ~ Aren't our four-legged cats great for keeping rabbits away? We too have several feral cats that show up when dinner is served on the patio.

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