Hello Friends — Thank you to everyone who attended my slideshow Friday at Pack Library. I promised one of the guests that I would talk to my boss at the Botanical Gardens and get the answer to her question on English Ivy removal on a large lot. I’ll post the answer to that later asap. In the meantime, exciting activity in the Milkweed patch:
So this is the first spring that I’ve had Monarch caterpillars. Don’t know why I haven’t noticed them before. Maybe the weather kept the Monarchs from drifting over my yard in the past or maybe I didn’t pay enough attention before. Whatever the case, I have gotten very lucky this spring. Since my last blog post, I’ve filled all three of my containers and pop-up hamper with Milkweed and Monarch caterpillars:
Current Guest Count:
26 Monarch Caterpillars
2 Monarch eggs
Last Friday, I came home from work to find a hatchling Monarch caterpillar so fresh that it hadn’t had time to eat it’s eggshell, something they normally do:
Talk about thrilled! All weekend I combed the Milkweed patch looking for more caterpillars. It’s a lot easier looking for caterpillars than looking for eggs. To spot them, look for a round cut-out in a Milkweed leaf. When I see one, I cross my fingers and look under the leaf hoping for treasure:
Bam! Each discovery feels like hitting a gold strike. Before I start looking, I clip a stalk of Milkweed, pick all the critters off of it, give it a rinse, and put it in a glass of water (see last post for pictures). When I find a caterpillar, I just take the leaf; then, I use clean scissors to cut a small circle around the caterpillar. I don’t want to touch the caterpillar if I don’t have too. Why take a chance of damaging it? Instead, I place the small piece of leaf on my prepped Milkweed and put the whole thing in an enclosure to keep it safe from predators. I’ll put about two or three caterpillars on a nice big stalk.
Sometimes the Milkweed stalk wilts in the enclosure, so I immediately change it out if it gets wilty or stops looking robust in any way. I’ll gingerly transfer the caterpillars to the new stalk using the method described above. When I find an egg on a stalk in the garden, I clip the whole stalk and do my best to make sure to get all the other critters off the stalk before bringing it in.
But look how easy it is to miss a potential predator. I didn’t realize until I looked at this picture on my computer that I had brought in another bug with this caterpillar:
I need to do some research to identify the hitchhiker. If it’s a parasitic fly, my hope is that it didn’t make it inside the enclosure since I only include the small bit of leaf that I cut around the caterpillar. But it’s a tiny thing that I totally missed! Here’s another example:
Caterpillar top left; unwanted hitchhiker bottom right from leaf:
When I get a free minute, I’m going to use my “Milkweed Monarchs and More” field guide by Rea, Oberhauser, and Quinn, to try to ID these two hitchhikers. If you want your own copy, we now have them on sale at the Botanical Gardens at Asheville. Come see us!