A week or two ago I was very excited to discover not one, but TWO monarch caterpillars on our milkweed. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen these caterpillars in the wild — I’m sure it’s been since I was kid, and back then it seemed like they were everywhere.
I saw the bigger one first on our Prairie Milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii), and then I happened to notice the little guy on the Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa). I started checking on them often, and next thing I knew the little guy was hiding in the shade under a Prairie Milkweed leaf.
And then it was back on the Butterfly Milkweed. For creatures that didn’t seem to move around much while we were watching them, they sure did move around!
I started doing to some research to see if there was something we needed to do to protect them from predators. One site talked about wasps being able to sniff out caterpillar poop, or “frass”, so Pete scooped up the poop and deposited it elsewhere. Have you ever seen caterpillar poop? It’s all those green turds sitting on the leaf in the background of the last photo. That caterpillar sure could poop!
Anyway, I didn’t know what else to do really, and I was reluctant to interfere with its natural habitat so I just hoped for the best and kept checking on them.
All of a sudden we couldn’t find the big guy anywhere, so I went back to the interwebz to find out where they formed their chrysalis. On the gardenweb.com forums, a few people mentioned that they move to a neighboring plant (preferably woody) to transform, and another said they read that they can travel up to 40 feet away to do it. We’ve been searching on our neighboring Viburnum shrub and also our oak tree, but so far they’re either well camouflaged or they didn’t make it. I really hope that’s not the case.
Anybody had any experience with this and have some tips if I find more in the future?