It's already time to raise the monarch caterpillars.
I posted pictures last week of a couple of tiny monarch caterpillars I discovered on two of our potted Narrowleaf Milkweed Asclepias fascicularis plants.
In the meantime, I discovered seven monarch caterpillars, some in first, some in second instar.
Well, now those delicate creatures are safely indoors in mesh hampers, growing plump and are eating machines, taking naps to digest, or longer periods, up to a day to molt as they grow larger.
The caterpillar above is in its third instar.
Here is one of the caterpillars when I found it on the milkweed plant, about a week ago, probably in its second instar. Note the creepy yellow aphids crawling around the leaves.
We have two to four monarch caterpillars per large mesh hamper.
Each has its own "condo", a reusable plastic container with snap on or screw on lid, with one or two holes poked into the lid to insert milkweed leaf stems.
The containers have water in them which both weighs down the container, keeping them in place, and to keep the milkweed stems moist until the leaves are devoured.
Then I simply pull out the naked stems and replace with fresh new stems with leaves.
This system worked well for us last year.
Plenty of air circulates through the mesh, the surface of the containers and bottom of the mesh hamper are easy to clean because we put clean newsprint drawing paper as the base surface.
But sometimes if those caterpillars have devoured all of the milkweed (like today, just before I got home from work) on their condo, they start crawling all over the inside walls of the hamper looking for more food. We quickly picked another leafy stem and gave it to them.
Right after I took this photo the caterpillar on the upper right returned to its own condo to eat its own leaves, that were now replenished. And a leafier stem replaced the stem you see chewed to the nub, up to the left of the caterpillars.
These two monarch caterpillars appear to be in fourth instar.