Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Death of a Monarch

I had a strange feeling of déjà vu earlier today. As I was watering the Bronze Fennel I'd just planted that my mom shared with me, I looked to my right, where the Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) grows, to see if we had any Monarch caterpillars yet. We've been seeing Monarch butterflies for a month or more now, so I figured it was just a matter of time before we saw some caterpillars.

The feeling of déjà vu came upon me because last year I was out in the garden and the same thing happened - there was a Monarch caterpillar being munched on by an insect. Last year, it was a wasp that did the deed. This year, it's a weevil or beetle of some sort, and looks to me like a juvenile form of whatever it is.

I hate when this happens. I know it's a part of life, but the Monarch is special and I want every single one to live a full natural life. Because of what I witnessed last summer, I took a caterpillar inside last fall so that it would be sure to live to adulthood, because it's the fall babies that grow up and fly to Mexico.

There will be more caterpillars. We've had several American Lady caterpillars already and they're doing a number on the Helichrysums we have. Just how DO they find those plants?? We don't have many at all and with all the hundreds of plants in our gardens, they've managed to zero in on the little things and make stems out of them.

This is not the Painted Lady caterpillar (Vanessa cardui), and the American Lady
(Vanessa virginiensis) is generally found in the southern United States. But it will migrate in the summer, to Ohio. I counted four of them in two different parts of my garden.

I imagine we'll soon see caterpillars of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, since several have been seen flying here in the last month, both male and female. The first butterflies of the year that appeared here, way back in early April, were the Red Admirals. The Silver-Spotted Skippers are plentiful.
Just today, I saw an Eastern Comma hanging out in the carrots.

I've mentioned before that we're a Certified Monarch Waystation, and while we think Monarchs are special, we welcome any and all butterflies to spend time in our gardens. We enjoy having them and watching them raise their offspring here.


Lisa at Greenbow said...

Wow Kylee you have lots of caterpillars in your garden. This is great!

Rose said...

I have yet to see a Monarch butterfly here; I do hope the beetles or whatever haven't gotten to them.
Enjoyed your post on foliage--lots of lovely greens! The oregano is indeed a beauty--I'll have to look for that next year.

kate smudges said...

Your garden is just teeming with caterpillars! How cool is that ...

Jessica said...

ah that is heartbreaking! How wonderful though to have so many caterpillars!

Daphne Gould said...

My dill raised a batch of black swallowtail caterpillars earlier this year. I keep waiting for the yellow swallowtail caterpillar to appear. They love my parsley. But so far only adults. I haven't see the kids yet. I've never grown any plant for monarchs. I rarely see them here, but this year I did see one adult flutter by. I'm so sorry that your's was eaten, but as you say, it is the way of life. Hopefully you will get some that survive.

Katie said...

A picture to go with the Plurk story. Thanks for the info about the caterpillars. Someone sent me butterfly weed seeds, but I can't find them. I guess I will have to start them next year.

Good luck with the other caterpillars/butterflies.

Shady Gardener said...

Hy Kylee, I haven't seen any Monarchs around here, yet. It's early. I planted three parsley plants this year (last year I planted one) for the black swallowtail! I hope my dwarf butterfly bush draws a few butterflies! My Butterfly Milkweed is very lush this year... last year there were a LOT of Monarch caterpillars!!! I taught two grandchildren and two neighbor children about watching the caterpillars turn into the chrysalis and then butterflies! :-) I may never be a registered butterfly home, but I certainly love them and welcome them all!!!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Oh I hate images like that! Why did I read this? Argh. I've just become certified myself for monarchs, and have many asclepias started, so maybe next year I'll see some baby action. When I see what's happened to monarch habitat here and in Mexico, it sucks to see even one killed.

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