Last spring I ordered ten milkweed cuttings from livemonarch.org. When they arrived, they also arrived with 75 free milkweed seeds. I sowed the seeds and then let them sit outside until July when I finally got around to transplanting them. I ended up transplanting a total of 32 plants along the southern fence line. The heat of the summer killed off a few of them, but I now have at least 25 plants over two feet tall and all of them are blooming. Besides seeing a couple of monarch caterpillars and a couple of queen caterpillars, I thought that the monarchs must have missed me this year (I haven’t seen one land on any of the plants in the yard). I was very excited to go out yesterday and find about thirty monarch cats busily munching away on the milkweed. Here are some photos of them:
Milkweed bed looking west
Milkweed bed looking east
I’ve been sleeping terribly lately. Last night I went to bed at 10PM and slept all the way through to 3:30AM, the longest I’ve slept at one time in over a month. I tossed and turned for the next few hours, then finally got up. Around 7AM, I ventured out into the garden to do some work. I found several of the monarch caterpillars resting on the underside of some of the milkweed leaves. This little guy, however, caught my eye. He looked like he was up to something unusual, so I sat down with the camera and caught a few shots of him pushing and pulling his way out of his skin. Over the course of several minutes, he finally wriggled loose. It was fun to watch and was pretty interesting how his rear feet remained anchored to the leaf as he compressed his body and pulled out. I also shot a short one minute video of the last part of it.
Here’s the video. At about sixteen seconds in you can see his “helmet” fall off:
I found this one on the verbena (next to the milkweed). He was resting, no doubt tired from the ordeal. I picked him up gently and placed him on the milkweed.
This is a first for the garden and a welcome one at that! Sunday morning I discovered a bright striped caterpillar on the butterfly weed and I thought I was right to identify it as a Monarch. As it turns out, I was wrong and it isn’t a Monarch, but a Queen caterpillar. (Thanks for setting me straight, Carol!) Yes, a happy Queen butterfly found our garden and laid an egg, giving rise to a beautiful queen caterpillar. I’m glad at least one has found its way into the garden. We have a total of forty milkweed plants in the garden, though only about six of them are currently flowering. We started the others from seed earlier in the summer and transplanted them about a month ago. They’re getting bigger now, and hopefully they’ll be a good-size by the early part of October to attract more Queens and, HOPEFULLY, monarchs, which typically migrate through Central Texas!
Queen caterpillar on Butterfly Weed
Milkweed bed along south-facing fence
Asclepias Curassavica seeds obtained from livemonarch.org