A few weeks ago I posted about the hoards of baby monarch caterpillars marching and munching through our flats of milkweed. I thought you might want an update, because they aren't babies anymore! New butterflies have been drying their wings in the greenhouse on a regular basis, and they don't seem to have any trouble flying out the open sides.
There are still some small caterpillars, freshly hatched from the steady stream of adults that flutter through and pick their favorite host milkweed. But the majority were laid in July, and now are big plump caterpillars eating and eating and getting ready to make pretty green chrysalises spotted with gold. They hang their chrysalises everywhere, but they seem to favor big sturdy leaves and stems - Big Leaf Aster, Blue Lobelia, and Little Bluestem. This is why we always include shrubs or sturdy grasses in our butterfly garden kits.
We were concerned that the hoard would strip all our milkweed down to sticks, but that hasn't been the case. A few seedlings took heavy damage, but they are already putting out new shoots from the base. Some of the bigger plants lost flower heads or the tips of shoots, but overall, the damage has been tolerable and temporary, and it looks like we will continue to be able to raise Monarchs along with the native milkweeds they love.
To see the Monarch baby pictures, check out our previous blog post here.