Wednesday, March 9, 2011

An Unexpected Gift

While surveying my butterfly garden last weekend to assess where I will place the new plants I hope to buy at the upcoming USF Spring Plant Sale (April 2-3, mark your calendars!), I noticed my remaining milkweed -- which had been rapidly growing after winter -- was looking decidely shorter. Peering at the plants, I was surprised to see a plump monarch caterpillar munching away on the leaves. Then, three more on another milkweed!

I assume that these are the progeny of a monarch that overwintered in Mexico, though it seems a bit early for the migrants to have reached Florida. Have any of you had monarchs in your garden yet?

Checking today, all the caterpillars have crawled off to make their jeweled green chrysalis cases (I haven't found them yet, but I'll keep looking), and all my milkweed has been completely stripped. Sigh. As a flower-lover, I hate seeing the naked stubs, but I love being able to provide for the butterflies even more. Looks like I'll be shopping for milkweed plants too, since I'll be getting more monarchs before these plants recover. 

Hopefully, I'll have some plants flower long enough to bear seeds so I can harvest those for a sustainable supply.

I noticed that my passionvine is just now starting to recover from the winter. Fritillary food in the making!


  1. Wow! You've got the earliest cats! I haven't seen any on my milkweed yet, but I hope they will show soon. Enjoy the wonders of nature!

  2. Yesterday I spotted Monarch chrysalis. Spring is here! Tuesday I spotted my first Swallowtail flitting around the garden. Have had Monarchs and Sulphers around for a few weeks. Spring is here!

  3. I watched two monarchs last week laying eggs on my milkweed. I haven't seen any cats yet. There are monarchs that don't migrate to Mexico from what I understand.Some overwinter right here in FL. The years when we don't have freezes (like forever ago) I've had them in my garden all year long. Your milkweed probably hasn't had a chance to seed itself but I have babies cropping up everywhere and I think I might finally have enough food for all the cats to be born. Maybe.

    Enjoy. It's a fun world when you feed the wildlife.

  4. Hi Meems,

    We actually had two monarchs born in our yard over the winter, but they emerged deformed (their wings never fully unfolded, maybe a product of the cold weather?) and didn't make it. A colleague who is very knowledgeable about butterflies told me that our well-intentioned feeding of the monarchs long after their host plants would naturally be available may be encouraging more to stay all winter, or linger too long before migrating. I decided this year to stop replanting or seeding new milkweed after early August and see what happens. Saw my first adult monarch yesterday. Had to run get my husband to come see it -- it's a big deal around my yard, one of those welcome signs of Spring I anticipate each year !!

    SiestaSister, I finally caught one of the caterpillars in the process of forming its chrysalis, so I know where that one is. Haven't found the others yet. I've had a sulphur or two as well and this year planted two butterfly cassia for them. I had the cassia in pots on my deck all winter and they made it through winter in fine style, so I finally planted them in the yard.