Yesterday, having vowed to clean up my act (and the yard, too), I discovered that one of our Butterfly Weeds had become home to two Monarch caterpillars:
Butterfly Weed is a type of milkweed, which Monarch Butterflies love. The butterflies lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves and not long afterward, a caterpillar emerges, snacking away on the leaves until it is nice and plump, whereupon it attaches itself to a nice spot, hangs upside down in a sort of J shape, and turns into the pupa from which a new butterfly emerges, completing the cycle.
Judging by their size, the two caterpillars in our yard will pupate fairly soon. I’m hoping they stay put on the Butterfly Weed, though some caterpillars wander off and undergo their metamorphosis elsewhere. If these two are happy where they are (and if predators do not get to them), I may be able to post a pupa update in the near future. I am going to let nature takes its course this time around, but if I lose track of the caterpillars, I may consider bringing the 2013 generation indoors so they can pupate in safer quarters.
In the meantime, here is another critter that loves milkweed–the Milkweed Bug. There are two types, both of which are orange and black: the Large Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) has a distinctive black band across its back, while the Small Milkweed Bug (Lygaeus kalmii) has an orange X on its back. We have both, which may not be a good thing. These bugs multiply like rabbits and can denude a Butterfly Weed very quickly; right now, there are only a few of each type hanging out on our plants, but I’ll have to monitor them to make sure they don’t reach critical mass and chomp away the leaf under which a Monarch pupa might be hanging….