Monday, August 27, 2007

The Journey Soon Begins

I wish you could have seen me on my hands and knees in the garden around 6:00 this evening. It's not unusual to see me like that in my garden at any given time, but tonight was unique. I was squealing with delight and couldn't get on my feet fast enough to run to Romie and step in front of him as he was mowing the yard, to share my excitement.

I'd been watching the swallowtail caterpillars - three of them - that we have had in the garden for about a week. Chomping away on parsley, dill, and rue, they were getting pretty chubby and I've wanted to keep an eye on them so I might see them pupate. I'd also been whining that in spite of lots and lots of Monarchs flying about, I'd not seen any caterpillars on the Asclepias, the only thing they eat.

And there it was.

No bigger than the nail of my little finger (if that), it was snacking on the buds of the orange butterfly weed, just like its ancestors did last year. I don't know if caterpillars can hear anything - let's hope not, because I let out a WOO HOO!!!! that scared Luna enough to send him running for cover.

Romie got off the mower when I told him we had a Monarch cat and came over to take a look. He couldn't believe I'd even seen it, it was so small. But I'd been looking for it, and those black tentacles they have help them to be seen easier than most, as well as the stripes - the tell-tale black, yellow, and white stripes. It was just adorable.

I think this is the generation that will make the trip to Mexico. Only the last brood of the summer lives long enough to migrate and with peak migration dates for our area at September 8th-20th, this has to be one that will be in it for the long haul.

You know I'll be out there every day several times, watching the progress and looking for more. Hopefully, I'll get to see a chrysalis or two, like Jodi in Nova Scotia. I've never seen one other than in photographs.

As I've said before, we are a certified Monarch Waystation and I no longer have to feel like we've failed to provide a good place for Monarchs to stop and eat and make little Monarchs.


Anonymous said...

I have seen several swallowtails, but no monarchs yet. You have inspired me, I am headed to the garden to have a look around. Great pictures!!

Katie said...

I had no idea monarch caterpillars were that small! I always imagined them the size of tomato hornworms. Gross! Thanks for the great pictures.

Kylee Baumle said...

Katie, they do get much bigger than what I saw yesterday, after a couple of weeks of eating that asclepias! Not quite as large as the largest hornworm I've seen, but much bigger than this one is right now. I'd love to see one right after it hatches out of the egg! You'd probably need a magnifying glass to identify it!

Unknown said...

Whoo hoo! I'm so glad that they're finally doing their thing, the little darlings! We're currently waiting PATIENTLY for the pupation period to end--the chrysalids are elongated and larger than they were, and are starting to get more transparent--I suppose pupation takes longer in cool weather? And thanks, Kylee, for telling me about the waystation certification; i registered our garden too, and then wrote an article which ran in the Chronicle Herald this weekend, urging others to do the same.

Kerri said...

I'm smiling at your excitement :) I feel the same way. Nature's creatures are so fascinating.
I haven't found any black swallowtail or monarch caterpillars yet this summer. I must try harder. One year I put a swallowtail cat in a jar and watched it pupate and then hatch. It was fun setting the butterfly free. It graciously paused on a lilac leaf just long enough for me to get a photo :)
Our monarchs eat milkweed which grows in the fields surrounding our farm.
I'm sorry about your ordeal with the flooding. What an awful job you've had.

Connie said...

Wonderful photos!! The monarch is such a regal and beautiful butterfly.

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