And Now…It’s Time For Something Completely Different

 

None of the usual wading birds and alligators today, instead I have a more unusual aspect of nature and wildlife to present.

We generally have a small garden with potted flowers just outside our back screened porch.

However, this past Spring we decided to try something different, and use plants that are known to attract butterflies, especially the Monarchs. These plants include milkweed and fennel, some of which we grew from seed, and we already had large pots of Mexican Petunias for the butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds to feed on. For the past month or so we began to notice an increase in butterfly traffic, some of which we hoped were laying eggs. A few weeks ago we began to see some scattered caterpillars among the milkweed and fennel and we noticed two types. The ones with spots and stripes we learned, were Swallowtail, while the Monarch caterpillars were just stripey.

It wasn’t long before we had our first chrysalis but not from a Monarch, it was a likely a Black Swallowtail, who it turns out, are partial to fennel. Soon though, we had Monarch caterpillars coming out of our ears. They are voracious eaters of the milkweed and within days had almost completely stripped the plants of most of the foliage. This required an emergency supplement of butternut squash this morning which the caterpillars also began to devour.

We also had an unusual sighting of a pale Luna Moth, which was exciting because they’re rarely seen during the day! It stayed motionless on a leaf for a couple of hours before finally flying off. A Monarch who after emerging, will also stay still in one spot drying and stretching it’s wings before starting it’s new life.

So far, we have yet to see a Monarch chrysalis but expect to start seeing those soon. This entire process amazes us and is a true miracle of nature, when the caterpillar ceases to exist, and in it’s place, a beautiful, delicate butterfly will emerge.  

 

9 thoughts on “And Now…It’s Time For Something Completely Different

  1. Phil, these pictures are fabulous! The beautiful Monarchs are in such trouble, what you are doing to help them is wonderful. The caterpillars are like little alien beings and the Lunar moth ethereal and quite magical. Thank you for sharing this with us!

    • Thanks very much Maggie, glad you liked the butterflies. We are just trying to take care of our little corner of the world, best we can do these days.
      Update: We woke this morning to discover two monarch chrysalis! Email sent

  2. Thanks Phil for sharing the information and images. I have also enjoyed trying to attract the butterflies and planting plants to attract. Your information also gave me some other ideas to try. I also love feeding the birds but this year all of a sudden I have a huge flock of Cowbirds that have raided all my feeders. If you have any ideas on how I can get ride of them, please let me know. As of today, I have taken down all the feeders hoping that will make them leave. I have researched the kinds of foods and feeders to use but not successful there either. After years of trying I finally attracted a painted bunting to my yard. I live inland so I was thrilled but I do think they have left. If you or your reader have any ideas to help with this problem, I would love any suggestions.

    • Hi Anne, thanks for writing and I appreciate your interest in the birds and butterflies.
      So far we have had the best success in attracting butterflies which lay eggs on milkweed for the monarchs and fennel for the swallowtails. We currently have three swallowtail caterpillars crawling on the fennel and we had two monarchs emerge from their chrysalis this morning with two to go. One chrysalis we found eaten this morning and suspicion falls on a lizard but there’s no proof.
      We have problems such as you describe with grackles and only get the occasional cowbird. I think taking down the feeders for a while is supposed to help but you never know for sure.
      That is amazing news that you had a painted bunting visit! Lucky you!

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