Friday, September 18, 2009

Let No Leaf Go Unchewed

Our butterfly garden has been a learning experience this summer. We attracted butterflies all right, not quite the numbers I hoped, but a nice variety of species. Along with the butterfly bushes and cone flowers, we planted three kinds of milkweed, the swamp milkweed, butterfly weed (the orange one), and a tropical milkweed given to us by a fried. Of course, you plant milkweed to attract Monarch butterflies. Three Monarch caterpillars now live on the tropical milkweed, speeding up and down the stems, or pausing to chow down on the leaves. It's hard to tell which end is the front, just as the caterpillars intended. Corinne Mastey, one of the volunteer naturalists at Bernheim Forest, is involved in a program to track Monarch migration patterns. They tag the Monarchs with little identifying dots on the wings, much like bird banding.
We keep looking on the larger swamp milkweed, but haven't found caterpillars or cocoons on it yet. Hopefully, we will find the chrysalis for one of these guys and can put it in a box to watch the butterfly emerge. This plant is shaded by the larger butterfly plant, so I think we'll move it to a spot with more consistent sun for next year.
Milkweed beetles also adore the tropical milkweed plant, especially the seed pods. According to, there are many species of milkweed beetles. The tropical milkweed is an annual in our climate, but we can save the seeds and start them in the spring. Dick is enlarging the garden to add more native plants next year.


Anonymous said...

Hi, just looking at your nice
blog, and want to help you out
with a couple of id's. First, the
milkweed beetles are actually
not beetles at all; on page 118
of my Kaufman & Eaton Field Guide
to Insects of NA they have this
bug and call it "Large Milkweed
Bug". True bugs are in the order
Hemiptera, while beetles are in
the order Coleoptera. And second,
the mystery raptor of your Sept.
12 blog sure looks like a small
falcon to me; and your description
fits the Am. Kestrel. Hope I
have been of some help.
Hap in New Hope (MN)

Kathiesbirds said...

I planted asclepia in my garden to attract butterflies and earlier this week I went out and it was all chewed up! Nothing but the stems left. I saw the caterpillar but didn't take a photo! Darn! I wonder what kind it was? Looks like your plan to attract butterflies was successful!