|I found this fifth instar caterpillar yesterday and it's now|
in my kitchen, nearly ready to pupate.
It all started this morning when I walked out to my back garden, where all my milkweed grows, with the intention of finding more monarch caterpillars to bring in. These precious insects are vulnerable to prey and I know they stand a much better chance of living to adulthood in the safety of my kitchen than they do in my garden.
That was brought home to me in the first minute I arrived at the milkweed patch. Not one, but two monarch caterpillars had met a deadly fate.
It could have been a wasp, ants, bacteria, or any number of dangers that felled these two, and such is life, but I wanted to help any others if I could.
I found evidence of a larger caterpillar when I spotted its green frass lying on a leaf, but I didn't find the caterpillar.
|A monarch's poop is called frass.|
|I think all milkweed blossoms are beautiful, but the color |
of the swamp milkweed's is just luscious!
So I moved to the common milkweed. Nothing there either! Plenty of milkweed beetles and milkweed bugs, but no sign of monarchs.
|Plenty of milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) to be found. I wonder |
what the morning meeting was all about?
It was then that I noticed some very small common milkweed plants coming up in the neighbor's yard, which of course had to have grown since the last time he mowed, less than a week ago. No plant was more than eight inches tall, and it's a testament to how quickly milkweed can shoot up.
|Ten little milkweeds, growing in the yard...|
I decided to look closer at those little plants, knowing that monarchs prefer the young, tender plants for laying eggs.
I. Hit. The. Jackpot.
|I also found a milkweed|
tussock moth caterpillar.
In all, I found fourteen eggs. I've collected caterpillars and chrysalides on many occasions over the years and brought them into the house for safekeeping and observation. I know what to do with those. But I'd not collected eggs before, so I had to look up what to do.
I took a glass casserole dish and lined it with a wet paper towel, then laid the leaves on top of that. I covered the dish with a piece of Saran Wrap and poked holes in it for air. I'll need to keep the paper towel moistened and watch for hatching, which usually occurs within 2-3 days after the eggs have been laid.
|Fourteen monarch eggs await hatching.|
Two of the eggs, probably laid at the same time because of their appearance and location on the same leaf, are very close to hatching. I can tell, because I can see the black heads of the larvae shining through at the top of the eggs.
|How big are they? The average monarch egg is 1.2mm tall, |
about the size of a pinhead.
Not only did I find eggs, I also found two newly-hatched caterpillars on a very young plant. It's amazing I even saw them, as they're a mere 2mm in length. That's about the same length as two grains of salt laid side-by-side. Yes, they're that tiny.
I've now got my monarch hatchery set up on the kitchen counter and once again, will be watching the miraculous process that is the life of a monarch butterfly. It simply never gets old to me.
If you want to read about my past experiences, click here, which will sort out all my posts on monarchs.