The Next Generation

A monarch caterpillar eating a milkweed plant in the garden in Jester Park, Iowa, July 10, 2018.

I was admiring the intricate design of the many tiny flowers of a Queen Anne’s lace plant when I saw her on the second Monday in July. The monarch caterpillar was systematically eating the leaves and the stems of a milkweed plant. She was still there on Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, she was gone.

According to the information on the website of the Monarch Lab at the University of Minnesota, this caterpillar was in the 5th Instar stage of her growth cycle. It is the last stage before the caterpillars shed their skin for the final time and become chrysalis. The monarch butterfly emerges from the chrysalis after 8 to 15 days.

I looked in the area near the milkweed plant for the caterpillar or a chrysalis on Wednesday morning. I didn’t see either one. I hope she found a safe place to make the transformation to a monarch butterfly. The summer storms can be intense.

July 9, 2018

A monarch caterpillar eating a milkweed plant in the garden in Jester Park, Iowa, July 9, 2018. The head of the caterpillar is hidden behind the leaf.

A monarch caterpillar eating a milkweed plant in the garden in Jester Park, Iowa, July 9, 2018. The head of the caterpillar is hidden behind the leaf.

A monarch caterpillar eating a milkweed plant in the garden in Jester Park, Iowa, July 9, 2018.

July 10, 2018

A monarch caterpillar eating a milkweed plant in the garden in Jester Park, Iowa, July 10, 2018.

A monarch caterpillar eating a milkweed plant in the garden in Jester Park, Iowa, July 10, 2018.

The bison were close by and out of sight on the other side of a small hill. You can hear them eating grass while the caterpillar munches on the milkweed plant.

July 13, 2018

The milkweed plant after the monarch caterpillar was finished, Jester Park, Iowa, July 13, 2018. The caterpillar ate 4 leaves and their stems and portions of other leaves.

Queen Anne’s Lace (Wild Carrot) flowers in the garden in Jester Park, Iowa, July 13, 2018.

Queen Anne’s Lace (Wild Carrot) flowers in the garden in Jester Park, Iowa, July 13, 2018.

Take care and thanks for reading.

Sarah

 

About Sarah

nature, outdoor, and health enthusiast, book reader, and story teller
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6 Responses to The Next Generation

  1. Jet Eliot says:

    What a thrill to see this voracious monarch caterpillar preparing for the butterfly stage. Wonderful photos and video too, Sarah.

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Jet πŸ™‚
      Thanks for visiting and your kindness! I am happy you liked seeing the caterpillar. πŸ™‚ Watching her eat the milkweed leaves and stems was really something: a model of attention and focus! It was an illustration of the concept of tackling a task one step at a time or, in this case, one bite at a time. πŸ™‚ I was excited to see the monarch caterpillar. I hadn’t seen one before. It would have been fun to see the chrysalis as well, but the caterpillar went off and hid somewhere in all the green of the garden. Good for the butterfly, I think, even if it means I can’t watch the transformation.

  2. Shady_Grady says:

    I guess the caterpillar thinks that the milkweed is like some really good herb!

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Shady πŸ™‚

      Thanks for visiting and your kindness! The milkweed is sustenance for the caterpillar like the best dish at a feast. πŸ™‚ Happily for the caterpillar and the butterfly it will become, the ingredients in the milkweed make it taste icky to many of its would-be predators so it is also like a protective shield. Pretty cool. πŸ™‚

      I was impressed by how much the caterpillar managed to eat during its time on the milkweed plant considering how small it is. Now, I know what a milkweed plant looks like after it has been visited by a monarch caterpillar. I am on the lookout for more milkweed plants that look like that.

      I would have liked to have been able to watch the caterpillar transform into a butterfly. I didn’t think the park folks would be happy with me camping out in their garden. πŸ™‚ Maybe I will be lucky enough to see that some other time.

  3. Amazing how that caterpillar is able to eat that much! I actually did see a Monarch egg on the underside of a milkweed leaf. It was so tiny and I could not get my camera to focus in on it to capture an image of it. I was beginning to run out of patience at that point so I just admired that tiny egg. Great post, Sarah! Thank you so much!

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Amy πŸ™‚

      Thanks for visiting and your kindness! I am happy you liked seeing the caterpillar. πŸ™‚ I was amazed by how much the caterpillar ate and how systematic she was in munching up all of those leaves and stems. Thank you for sharing your story of the caterpillar egg. πŸ™‚

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