My main goal today is to finish this quilt to send off to my youngest sister for her (60th) birthday tomorrow!
As my daughter and granddog returned from their morning walk, they made a discovery and knocked on the window to get my attention!!
I had my first Monarch butterfly sighting just 4 days ago -- one was nectaring among the milkweed which just came into bloom. And here was a 1" long caterpillar.
For the past 8 or 9 years, I've culled eggs and small caterpillars to raise to adulthood with some success until last summer. The adult butterflies were late arriving and few and far between -- I didn't find any eggs or caterpillars in my garden at all. So to have one in early July might be a good sign that it will be a better summer for this amazing butterfly.
Interestingly, there was no sign of eating on the leaf where Alison found the caterpillar. On the adjacent stalk, it was easy to find where it was last eating.
I set up our little brooding enclosure and moved the caterpillar into it with a vase full of young milkweed stalks. I'll change them every day. It will take about a week more for this one to morph into a chrysalis.
Then I went back to the patch to see if there were eggs or more caterpillars. I only found one egg but there is another patch to be searched this afternoon.
And I found a newly hatched caterpillar -- the older the caterpillar gets, the better it's chances of surviving, but at this size (not quite 1/4"), they are often eaten by spiders and other insects. I moved it into a plastic zipper bag with a fresh leaf. I'll give it fresh leaves daily and when it's large enough, I'll move it into the enclosure.
Look at the camouflage of this critter! Same exact color as the new leaves on the milkweed stalk!
And I wonder if this is a unique lady bug -- have to try to find my ID leaflet from the Ohio Lady Beetle project monitoring that I did a couple years ago. (Note -- here is a link to that PDF on-line -- http://kbsgk12project.kbs.msu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Lady_beetle_ID_Sheet.pdf) and I was right -- it's a 14 spotted -- unfortunately, non-native to Ohio.
To learn more about the amazing life cycle and journeys of this migrating species of butterfly, visit www.monarchwatch.org or www.monarch-butterfly.com
And look for this little book at your local nature centers -- Milkweed, Monarchs and More by Rea, Oberhauser, and Quinn -- it's packed full of information about the interesting community of insects that inhabit milkweed patches in North America.
Back to the quilt!! Must make the deadline!!!