Monday, August 24, 2009
Monarch For Mexico
An early morning trip to the garden for breakfast strawberries revealed this treasure. A Monarch butterfly caterpillar has taken the next step toward a major change. With luck a butterfly will emerge here in thirty days in time for the migration South. Its placement in a planting bed will allow us to daily monitor the process. If the chosen plant is growing up through the cage protecting the beets, the cage will be cut away to leave the chrysalis undisturbed.
We help the preferred food plant, milkweed, grow here. There are areas where the weeds are mowed to encourage milkweed growth. Cutting the emerging milkweed forces the plants to regrow. Cutting the dominant goldenrod causes it to quit. We have tender young leaves available for late caterpillars now. This year has provided few butterflies. Late frosts and constant rains seem to have reduced the number of many insects. A least two Monarchs found each other and created the next generation. This caterpillar may well have fed on the Asclepias growing in our garden.
The host plant was a gift from Ingaborg. She emigrated to this country from Germany between the two world wars. This source of the plant makes it special to us. The pictured leaf damage shows that it is special to the Japanese Beetles as well. A new stop has been added to our garden walks. Several times a day we will check on progress here. Now we have another concern about September frost.