Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Monarch And The Giant

The Monarch caterpillar is growing fast.  The red milkweed bug is gone.  Here he is cutting the vein of the leaf to reduce the amount of white poisonous sap in the leaf that is next on the menu.  A little milkweed sap makes it so he doesn't get eaten.  Too much is deadly.  Fortunately his instincts tell him what to do.

It takes a sharp eye to notice a monarch caterpillar.  They often eat from under the leaves.  Check out the shaded leaf that is nearly gone and you might see him munching away.  At the left edge just below the center line of the photo, a small bit of the eating end of the caterpillar can be seen.

Ed and I had another fun morning in the garden.  Before we went inside for lunch we sat on the bench with a cold drink. We watched the hummingbird feeding on the cardinal flower flowers, perch on the moonflower wire support and eventually zoom up and away at breakneck speed.  A monarch butterfly fluttered across the stone wall and landed on the white phlox.  These days it is a joy to see a monarch, but a huge black and yellow butterfly chased him away.  It was moving fast but was so big and brightly marked, I wondered what it might be.  I knew I had never seen a butterfly like that here before.  I wished out loud that we could have gotten a closer look and then the butterfly landed on this Liatris plant just to the left of where we were sitting.  He spread his wings and ate for a considerable time.  I did not have the camera, but we both had time to memorize the markings of this stranger. After he flew away, we described aloud to each other exactly what we thought we had seen.   With our mental images clearly fixed, a check of our books revealed the name of this never before seen here butterfly.  The position of the wings has a dramatic impact on the placement of the bands of  bright yellow, but we are certain that we were looking at a Giant Swallowtail.  They do venture into southern Canada but are more commonly seen where citrus trees grow.  Citrus growers consider their caterpillars a pest and call them Orange Dogs.  Here the large bright yellow and black butterfly was a once in a lifetime event.    As we age it is natural to think that we have seen it all.  We have spent more than two decades here in close contact with what is going on around us.  Then along comes a stranger who gives us an extremely good look at him and we experience the wonder of seeing something for the very first time.

1 comment:

Beth @ PlantPostings said...

Ah, a Giant Swallowtail! I had them in my garden two years ago, and then again last year, but I haven't seen any this year. They are so huge and graceful, aren't they? Other host plants that are common here (and I presume in your area) are Prickly Ash, Hop Tree, and Common Rue. I've seen the GS caterpillars on Prickly Ash while hiking. They're interesting caterpillars that look like bird waste. But the butterflies are stunning! Lucky you. Sounds like it was a wonderful day! :)