24 March 2008

Monarch caterpillars have taken over our back yard!!

We have a crown flower tree in our backyard. We call it the butterfly tree, because it is covered with Monarch butterflies, caterpillars, and eggs. The butterflies lay their eggs under the leaves. The eggs take around four days to hatch. When the caterpillar hatches, it eats milkweed (our crown flower tree leaves) nonstop for about two weeks. When it is done eating, it leaves the tree to find a place to make it's chrysalis. They usually end up on our deck, and if they attach themselves to a bad spot, then we end up accidentally squishing them.

We try and catch the caterpillars when we see them on the deck, and we put them in a bug catcher. This week we have the most I have ever seen. So far we have eight inside the bug catcher, one on the door frame, four in trees, one on the garden chest, one on a deck chair, and one under the outdoor table. I am sure there are more, but those are just the ones I have found so far.

This was taken yesterday. The caterpillars anchor themselves by spinning a silk web, just like spiders, and hanging upside down in a "J" shape for several hours. After awhile, they start thrasing around, and end up shedding their skin from the bottom up.

The black dots on the two in the middle are their old skins. You are able to count all eight in this shot.

It was getting a little crowded in the bug catcher, so the last one I caught yesterday got put in a tree. I hope he stayed there!


Anonymous said...

I remember the pictures from last year..............but I guess what you are saying is that this is the most you've ever seen in your yard. Keep us posted.......I think that is so neat that you get to see these things that the rest of us can only dream of. Mommer

The Lockharts said...

Great to see you. I have heard about you of course and when I told Sam you were headed back to AK we were both more than a little jealous. We keep trying to get back there but the Lord has other plans. Glad you found us and it will be great to stay in better touch. I love blogs
Amy :o)

Joel & Lila said...

that looks so awesome...I hope you are around when one of them 'hatches' so that you can capture it all on camera!