Monarch Caterpillars

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The wet spring appears to be favorable for the butterflies, as I’ve been seeing a ton.  Incidentally, which weighs more, a ton of bricks, or a ton of butterflies?

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I’m seeing more Milkweed, which is the host plant for Monarch larvae, the Monarch caterpillar.  Its orange, black, and white stripes signal toxicity to potential predators.  The word for this is Aposematism.

Milkweed contains large amounts of Cardiac glycoside poisons, and the Monarch, from feeding on the Milkweed, does as well.  Some predators have evolved workarounds for the poisons, though.

 

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Check out the massive turds behind the caterpillar in the photo above.  Chewed leaves and feces is your best signifier that a monarch caterpillar may be near.

I read in my local paper that its not just my experience, but scientists and citizen scientists confirm the greatest number of Monarchs in the last decade.

No doubt efforts by many of us to increase the amount of Milkweed and Monarch habitat have helped.  Some have taken to mass rearing Monarchs indoors.  While I appreciate their efforts, the holistic naturalist in me questions the overall effectiveness and it appears some agree, citing concerns over spreading of parasites and disease, and inadvertently selecting for less thrifty individuals.

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4 Responses to Monarch Caterpillars

  1. edmundbrown1979 says:

    Do your cattle eat milkweed? I used to have thick, thick, patches of the stuff. Nowadays its still there in my pastures, but not at the density of 4-5 years ago. My herd is finally up to 50+ beefers, so the herd effect and trampling are changing the composition of my pastures. Bye-bye milkweed and burdock this year. They’re sucking it down like never before.

    • Yes, they eat some and trample some. I noticed them eating some burdock as well. Our long rotations, five to six weeks, is good for the flowers and butterflies feeding and possibly larvae. The edges and protected areas are probably where most of the larvae pupate. I’ve converted from cropland to hay/pasture, so I’m seeing more action. Nice watching that mob at work, though.

  2. adunate says:

    Curious why you’re seeing more milkweed? Is it because of increased awareness of its importance, thus more people planting it (me) and less people removing it? Or is it more farmers practicing sustainability, like you? Or weather? Sadly, around my area farmers tear out more and more fence rows and create massive, mono-crop fields.

    • I think we have a hot spot at our farm, but I think enough people know and are not aggressively killing the milkweed that’s its making a difference. If we could just manage all the ditches better, less herbicide and mowing, it would make a huge difference. Tearing out fence rows is popular around here as well.

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