Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tis the season for butterflies!

The weather, being unseasonably cold has pushed out the start of the Monarch Butterfly Season.  A week ago, I spotted my first Monarch fluttering around my backyard and I knew the time was soon approaching.   A few days ago, on a whim, I took a walk around my neighborhood to do a bit of caterpillar egg reconnaissance at some of my favorite milkweed hot spots.  I came home with 12 eggs and 5 caterpillars of varying sizes.  Since then, 9 of my 12 eggs have hatched and I have found 5 more on my own milk weed in my backyard.  Once hatched these caterpillars, although only the size of a pin point, will grow vigorously over the next 2 weeks and will require a constant supply of milk weed to feast on.

Today, on my way home from work, I decided to bike along the midtown greenway to search for more eggs and to gather a stockpile of milkweed for my ever hungry and growing caterpillars.  The hunt is  incredibly satisfying for me.  I kept my eyes peeled for clusters of milkweed along the greenway as I rode slowly by.  Once spotted, I hopped off and spent a decent amount of time searching for my prized treasures.  I focused on plants with large gaping holes in the leaves, knowing that these were most likely to reveal caterpillars hiding underneath.   To my delight, I found a plant containing 2 caterpillars, but then later outdid myself by finding one with 3 of them and then 4 of them!  I have never found very large caterpillars, so I was absolutely thrilled to stumble across a humongous one.  My hands were so overladen with leaves that I emptied my lunchbox and used it as a carrier.  I look forward to watching each and every one of these magnificent creatures transform into a gorgeous butterfly.

Currently the Monarch population is dwindling due to lack of milkweed acreage.  In the wild, the chance of an egg making it to the butterfly stage is only 3 out of every 100 eggs laid.  For more information and  fun facts on these beauties check out National Geographic.
 Each one of the above milkweed leaves contains a caterpillar egg.
 My most recent acquisitions.
That extra large one, munching on his home plant.  This guy will be the first to make a chrysalis in my household.  

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