Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Monarch Feeding Frenzy

Back in the fostering enclosure, the Monarch caterpillars are giving us a run for the money.  There are currently five feasting on the milkweed stalks and it doesn't take long for them to strip them clean!!
The feeding caterpillars I have right now all hatched the same day and you can see they are getting to a good size -- about 2" long.
Are these two arguing about who gets to finish off this leaf? 
Before lunch.
After lunch.
This morning, two more have moved up to the top to begin the transformation to a chrysalis -- it seems to take about 24 hours.  I expect the last 3 to follow suit by the end of the day.
Then the top of the enclosure will be bejeweled with 9 of these gems.
Out in the milkweed patch, I've been keeping an eye on the spider nest -- the babies are growing -- they are now twice the size they were when I first found them, but the adult is no longer on the same stalk.  Really, they are bigger.
And I discover this amorous pair -- Milkweed Longhorn Beetles.  There are 8 species of this beetle in North American.  According to my little guide book, they are just coming into their season -- being more prevalent in August.  The adults feed on the tips of the leaves -- just like the picture?!? 
And I think the lightening bugs are having a good summer -- cool and wet might be their favorite weather.  I found this one hanging out until dusk when lightening bugs come into their own.  Did you know the adults don't eat?
Thanks to my friend, Carol, who also fosters for helping my daughter Alison keep them fed while I was off teaching and relaxing last week.  Alison released our first one a week ago today -- hopefully he/she is off making more Monarchs who will be destined to make the big migration south.

If you are enjoying this series on fostering the Monarchs, I hope you will let a few more weeds grow in your yard to provide food for caterpillars of butterfly species.  It's all well and good to plant nectaring plants for butterflies, but those plants aren't necessarily caterpillar food -- each species has specific plants it needs.  I let the violets overrun some of my flower beds to provide food for fritillaries and I've just planted service berry which I hope will attract red-spotted purple.  There is fennel and dill for the swallowtails.  Wild cherry and tulip trees host other species.  Here is a link to a site that lists a number of host plants for caterpillars -- check it out and inventory your neighborhood.  Then add some plants to your garden to expand the potential!  There's more to loving butterflies than just admiring them.

I hope the sun is shining in your part of the world!

Mary Huey

Here are links to my previous two posts about this adventure!


  1. Fascinating! I love following the process here.

    1. It's fun -- wish my grandchildren lived closer so we could share it!

  2. When one considers the colors of the Monarch life, one wonders if a quilt series isn't in order.