/> a mother's heart » Blog Archive » caterpillar update

Okay, so the frogs are on their way to freedom. And I’m pretty sure Brendan is going to be sad and there might even be some tears. But we’ll console ourselves with our monarch caterpillars, I’m sure.

So Sunday came and went and I found myself out in the sweltering weather, chatting with a new friend in the driveway. And then I saw them. Weeds. “So what? You’ve said you’ve been weeding all summer!” observant readers are probably thinking. True. But these are different weeds…they are MILKWEEDS! The very same milkweed plants that I drove to Allen Park for and that my friend there collected the monarch eggs from. This means two things: 1) I can harvest fresh milkweed for the caterpillars to munch on, and 2) If I’m diligent about checking the leaves, I will probably find new egg harvests and more caterpillars, assuming the wasps and flies don’t get to them first. Oh, and it means that when we do release the new butterflies after chrysalis, they’ll have their natural habitat to roam and hopefully lay eggs on. 😀

So yesterday, Brendan went out and harvested 3 new milkweed leaves and came back with them and the report that the “milk” for which they are named is sticky. He’s very correct…I got some on my hands and sure enough, it’s like Elmer’s Glue. 😮 So we pulled out the old leaves, caterpillar poo and all, and put all three on one leaf for the pictures.

As we gathered them, I must have surprised them, because they curled up and dropped something akin to gossamer/spider’s silk. I didn’t know they’d do that, and in thinking about it, I realized that’s probably where the whole “butterflies emerge from cocoons” myth got its wings. So we gave them a moment to acclimate to the new leaf and they uncurled and posed for me. 😉

So to the right, you’ll see how they’ve grown in comparison to the last set of pictures. They are still small in comparison to the dime on the leaf, but they are much more than the microscopic size they were a few days ago. Their stripes are much more visible and vivid that they were, and apparently the stripes also serve as a warning to predators. Birds and other creatures that inadvertently (or mistakenly) swallow them and miss the warning colours will either throw them up or have the equivalent of a massive coronary.  So their “defense” is in causing the demise of their potential predators, which is a natural byproduct of the milkweed they eat. Fascinating, eh?

They are chewing large and consistent holes through the milkweed leaves and leaving poo everywhere, which again, just fascinates the 5 year old scientist in the house. 😉

The view to the left is from the top of the jar, in to which I peer at least 3 times a day. Who would’ve thought that I’d get so in to a jar of insects?

Oh, and I will be transplanting and dividing up some milkweed in the fall, so those of you who are local and interested, drop me a note. I’m happy to share the bounty! :).

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