We believe strongly in doing our bit to help the Monarch butterfly, whose migrating population has declined about 90% in recent decades (you can read more about saving the Monarchs here). And so we have lots of Milkweed (Asclepias spp.), which is the only genus of host plants for Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars.
While we have seen a decent number of adult Monarchs most summers, over the years Monarch caterpillars have been few and far between in our garden. This made me feel like someone who has organized an elaborate birthday party for a guest of honor who doesn’t bother to show up.
Until this year. All of a sudden, we are seeing Monarch Caterpillars all over our Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa). Big fat ones, tiny little ones, and others of medium size.
We’ve also seen a Monarch chrysalis, which is a first. Sadly, the great majority of Monarch caterpillars end up eaten by other insects. The survival rate, I’ve been told, is about 5%. This is why some people, including a number of friends of ours, raise caterpillars indoors. We haven’t done this ourselves, but maybe we’ll give it a try this summer.
Monarch chrysalids are also difficult to find because they don’t stay on the Milkweed plants. They’ve been known to hang from all kinds of surfaces.
We have lots of other host plants for different kinds of butterflies. So far I haven’t seen any other types of caterpillars except for the Black Swallowtails, but our experience with the Monarchs indicates patience (not my strong suit) may be rewarded.
Both Judy and I are really pleased about the chrysalis and all the Monarch caterpillars this year. Judy’s been going out to check on them every morning (me too). This is what habitat gardening is all about, contributing to a healthier environment while providing pleasure and excitement for the gardener.