|From a Centerpointe Communicator post of about a month ago. Except I think I initially called the sex wrong on this one... upon closer inspection it appears to have been a female because it lacks the characteristic small black patch of pheromonal scales on the hind wings that males have.|
|Monarch caterpillars. Lots of 'em.|
I seemed to have had far more caterpillars than milkweed available to feed them, because they stripped the plant bare. That raised the obvious question: should I have culled the herd, leaving more milkweed available to a smaller number of individuals, or should I have let nature take its course?? Knowing very little about the life cycle of monarchs, I decided on the latter.
|As the milkweed plants were getting stripped bare (they'll grow back from the roots), and the caterpillars began abandoning the urn of milkweed, presumably looking for more of it elsewhere.|
|"Is there any good way down from this thing?!?!"|
|This guy got one of the last available leaves.|
|And this guy decided to eat his last leaf upside down.|
|My milkweed recently went to seed, so I plan to harvest these and try to get more plants started, to be ready for next year's migration. Monarchs are the only species of butterfly to engage in long-distance, round-trip migration, as many bird species do. Except the monarch's lifespan is not long enough for any single individual to make the entire trip. It takes three or four generations to complete the cycle. They apparently use the earth's magnetic field and the sun to navigate in ways that nobody really understands, and the instinct to migrate is genetically-encoded.|
They start out looking like this...
...and then toward the end of the metamorphosis, you start seeing the butterfly forming within.