Working in my side garden’s milkweed patch this week, a color combination unconsciously caught the corner of my eye, and my head snapped over. There, hanging head-down along the spine of a milkweed leaf was a very large, likely very happy monarch caterpillar.
Only a few feet away crawled another. Eureka!
You know monarchs, those big orange-and-black flutterers, all Halloween-striped. I’m a Philadelphian, so here’s my frame of reference: they wear Flyers jerseys. But the youngsters are striped like shown here: white, yellow, black. Bold. Dramatic.
Monarchs are ace botanists, only laying their eggs on milkweeds, nothing else. After hatching, the young immediately set to work devouring their world, plowing through milkweed leaves as fast as they can.
After all, that’s all they eat, breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner for several weeks—milkweed. They incorporate the weed’s noxious latexy chemicals into their own body, and gross out any unsuspecting blue jay that tries to eat them.
That’s why I keep the milkweed patch I inherited from the previous owner on the side of the house. Thought the stuff gets to be almost 6 feet tall, it provides sustenance to monarchs.
More milkweed, more monarchs in the world.
And these were the first had seen this year. Eureka!
So, got milkweed?
You can: simply go to http://www.lmconservancy.org/ and order your own milkeweed today!
p.s. And when these two larvae metamorphose into adults, this is the generation that will fly to Mexico, a stunning feat of migration for such a small critter.