Hello Monarch buddies!
Welcome to August. I am glad Jody finally saw a Monarch. I saw another Monarch butterfly today. The caterpillars, though disappointingly fewer in number than the previous two summers, have been harder to find. Sometimes I try to do a count and find none, and then find 5 a few hours later. I think I have seen about 8 caterpillars in all on my Swamp Milkweed plants, and another 3 on the Common Milkweed. Part of the issue is that the smaller caterpillars don’t do much chewing; logically they are so little that they are eating relative to their body size. So it’s hard to find chewed leaves as a clue to their whereabouts. Once they get bigger though, it’s amazing how much food they require, and plant munching is noticeable.
Take heart; even if your plants do not feed the Monarch population this year, lots of other pollinators are certainly enjoying the nectar from their flowers. Remember that our ultimate goal is to increase the diversity and population of all of our pollinators. Next summer, with another year to grow, your plants will be bigger and stronger and you can try again. If your plants are blooming, make sure you smell the flowers. Lovely and not at all what I expected – reminiscent of… You tell me what you think.
A couple of the very large, fat, well fed 5th instar caterpillars seem to be gone from my plants, which leads me to think they’ve crawled off to form chrysalises. I haven’t found any yet, though last year they appeared in early August in the most unlikely places – along a garden hose, the back of a chair, on a fern. I will keep looking and keep you posted, and will also send some caterpillar pictures tomorrow.