13 April 2008

Monarch Factory



Okay, so I'm obviously obsessed with monarch butterflies, but they are obviously obsessed with my tropical (red) milkweed, Asclepius lanceolata. As with last year, there are more monarch caterpillars on my two milkweed plants than I can count.



Two of them have already had their fill of the milkweed and are turning into adults. The monarchs feed exclusively on milkweed, sequestering the toxic chemicals in the plant. As adults, they advertise their noxiousness to birds with orange and black wings (it's no great secret why we also associate stop/danger with the colors red and orange).



UPDATE (4/21/08): I've found a total of 4 monarch chrysalises on the house (there may be more hidden amongst the plants). It's very interesting that both this year and last, the caterpillars have headed west-southwest from the plants and attached on the house. Hypothesis A: They always head west-southwest. Hypothesis B: They follow scent trails from caterpillars that have gone before them, and it's just chance that the first one headed west two years in a row.

6 comments:

herself said...

Those are really cool photos!

I'm jealous, no one is eating my parsley. I don't have any dill in this year.

Frances, said...

How wonderful! Hope you can take more photos of those beauties this year too. The monarchs come later to our garden here in TN. We have loads of eastern swallowtails though, similar caterpillar. The bronze fennel has self sown all over the place, they all seem to like it. Our milkweed is late to emerge in the spring also, maybe timed for the arrival of the monarchs? We do have the incarnata variety, it is just showing now. I can't wait for the butterflies to come. It was nice talking to you at the fling.
Frances at Faire Garden

Diana said...

Those are great photos -- it's so fun to watch nature unfurl in our gardens, isn't it? Last year I bought a nice butterfly book to try to identify all the caterpillars and butterflies and moths we get through here. I'll be back to watch them grow!

Bonnie said...

Great photos, I don't think I have seen any monarch caterpillars yet. I'll have to look around- I wonder do they like milkweed vine as well, or just the plant?

Shellmo said...

Very neat to see!
Shell

mel said...

we had a similar monarch experience, but have been sad to see the chrysalises (chrysali??) we found being eaten/destroyed. we're hoping there are survivors we haven't seen...